Ideas. Action. Results.

By Terri Ludwig

Who are unconventional stakeholders who can help rally support for housing?

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As advocates of affordable housing, partnership needs to be in our DNA.

Advocates can’t solve our nation’s housing problems on their own—nor can governments, nor philanthropists, nor corporations. And we can’t build strong communities just by building homes. For low-income families to have any chance at a better life, housing must be linked to good schools, well paying jobs, quality health care and other opportunities.

From our experience, the key to success is public-private partnership, grounded in shared goals and mutual accountability. And often it’s the unexpected partnerships that make the biggest difference.

Consider our work to revitalize communities around distressed public housing in San Francisco, an initiative called HOPE SF. Enterprise and our partners, including the City of San Francisco, are working to rebuild or construct more than 6,000 homes across eight severely distressed neighborhoods.

When we started this initiative in 2008, these neighborhoods were crumbling. Crime was rampant, two-thirds of the population was in poverty and more than half of the kids at HOPE SF sites were chronically absent from school—six times the citywide average. For the neighborhoods and their residents to truly thrive, we needed to find ways to improve housing conditions, reduce crime, improve health outcomes and help kids succeed in school.

So we’re working with the San Francisco Unified School District to improve school attendance and better understand students’ needs, starting by connecting school staff with case managers. We’re collaborating with healthcare leaders like the Center for Youth Wellness to improve care and services for residents with past traumas. We’re partnering with local police and community leaders to broker a new compact between public safety officials, policymakers and residents. And we’re joining public agencies and community groups to develop a targeted transitional employment program.

We hope that hundreds of stable homes—along with services tailored to the specific needs of the neighborhood—will soon translate into better health, increased school attendance, less crime and stronger communities. And we’re already starting to see results.

Collaborations like HOPE SF are not about getting everyone to suddenly care about housing issues. They’re about recognizing how each issue—and each stakeholder—is interconnected. Without stable housing, a kid living in poverty has little chance of doing well in school, staying healthy or keeping out of trouble. A stable home is a great start, but without a good education, nutritious meals and appropriate health services, that kid won’t get very far in life.

Whether you’re an advocate for housing, education, healthcare or public safety, we’re all working toward the same basic goal: better lives for low-income families. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we can start working together toward a solution.

Terri Ludwig is president of Enterprise Community Partners.

Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector.

Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.