In 2019, Habitat for Humanity launched an ambitious advocacy campaign known as the Cost of Home. This five-year initiative was crafted to influence policy and systemic changes across the United States. The primary objective? To extend a helping hand in securing access to affordable homes for 10 million people.
As we near the end of this transformative journey, it's a time of reflection and celebration. Over the past four years, the Cost of Home campaign has become a driving force in the advocacy landscape, achieving over 300 policy successes and significantly improving access to affordable homes for 6.6 million individuals. This remarkable feat stands as a testament to Habitat's unwavering commitment to building not just houses, but communities and hope.
Through strategic partnerships, community involvement, and tireless advocacy, Habitat for Humanity has navigated the complex world of housing policy, sparking measurable and sustainable change in communities nationwide. As we delve into the stories, strategies, and successes of the Cost of Home campaign, it's clear that this initiative is more than a campaign; it's a movement—a movement that champions the basic human right to a decent, safe, and affordable place to call home.
Overview of Cost of Home Campaign
In the landscape of American housing, the Cost of Home campaign emerged as a groundbreaking initiative. This advocacy campaign was not just another effort in the realm of housing; it was a bold commitment to support access to affordable housing in a country where the concept of a 'home' remains an elusive dream for many.
The journey of the Cost of Home campaign over the past four years has been nothing short of extraordinary. With more than 300 policy successes under its belt, the campaign has not just reached, but surpassed many of its milestones, marking a significant stride in the mission to improve home affordability. These successes represent a mosaic of change, each policy victory contributing to a larger picture of hope and stability for millions. Habitat's approach was comprehensive, targeting various aspects of housing policy to ensure a multifaceted impact. The result? Access to affordable homes for an impressive 6.6 million people, a figure that resonates with the scale and effectiveness of the campaign's efforts.
Impact Assessment by the Urban Institute
To gauge the impact of such a colossal endeavor, Habitat for Humanity enlisted the expertise of the Urban Institute. This nonpartisan research organization stepped in to provide data and evidence, helping to dissect and understand the upward mobility and equity implications of the Cost of Home campaign. The Urban Institute's research was pivotal in painting a detailed picture of how local and state Habitat organizations participating in the campaign had managed to create measurable transformations in home affordability in communities around the country.
The study by the Urban Institute was comprehensive, assessing the outcomes of eight policy changes enacted by local and state Habitat organizations through various advocacy efforts. This research delved into the policies’ theories of change, their impacts, the extent to which outcomes met expectations, and the broader implications of these changes. Additionally, the Urban Institute developed a typology or searchable database, along with a typology brief of policy successes and systems changes. These resources offer invaluable insights into the mechanisms driving positive change and increased access to affordable homes, shedding light on the range and scope of efforts by local and state organizations.
Furthermore, by engaging with diverse stakeholders, the Urban Institute revealed that the Cost of Home campaign had also served as an effective capacity-building initiative. It supported local advocacy for a range of public policies, proving adaptable and resilient even in the rapidly changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic era.
The successes of the Cost of Home campaign are as diverse as they are impactful. Here are some noteworthy examples:
- South Carolina: In South Carolina, Habitat for Humanity has been instrumental in advocating for and achieving significant legislative change. One notable success was the passage of a bill that provided tax incentives for developers to build affordable housing units. This legislation not only incentivized the creation of more affordable homes but also played a crucial role in attracting investment into low-income communities. Habitat's advocacy efforts in South Carolina focused on demonstrating the long-term economic and social benefits of affordable housing to policymakers, which was key in garnering bipartisan support for the bill.
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati has played a critical role in creating homes and uplifting homeownership levels in the Lower Price Hill Neighborhood. Their advocacy led to securing $1 million from city funds to rehabilitate 46 apartment units, marking a notable achievement in the region.
- Colorado: Proposition 123, a state initiative, was passed to fund affordable housing, enabling municipalities to increase their affordable housing stock by 3%. This policy change is a landmark achievement in making housing more accessible.
- Indiana: Habitat for Humanity of Indiana has been actively involved in campaigning against aggressive payday lending. Their advocacy for a 36% flat rate lending standard is a significant step towards protecting homeowners from exorbitant interest rates. This development represents Habitat's commitment to community advocacy beyond traditional housing issues.
- Pittsfield, Massachusetts: The At-Home in Pittsfield program, championed by Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, has facilitated the exterior renovation of numerous homes. This was made possible by successfully advocating for the allocation of $500,000 annually to the program since 2020.
These success stories are a prime example of how Habitat for Humanity's persistent and informed advocacy can lead to impactful legislative changes that directly contribute to increasing the availability of affordable housing.
Despite facing unprecedented challenges, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cost of Home campaign has showcased Habitat for Humanity's remarkable adaptability and resilience. Even in the face of adversity, the campaign has stayed on course, achieving significant milestones and demonstrating Habitat's capacity to navigate complex challenges.
As we enter the pivotal final year of the Cost of Home campaign, the urgency and focus are more pronounced than ever. The goal to impact 10 million people is within reach, marking 2024 as a critical time to consolidate our achievements and lay the groundwork for continued advocacy in the future.
The critical need for affordable housing solutions is highlighted by the stark reality in the U.S.: nearly 1 in 6 households spent over half their income on housing in 2021. This situation underscores the importance of Habitat's work and the pressing need for sustainable, affordable housing solutions. The successes we've witnessed are a testament to the power of collective action and collaboration. But our work is far from over. As the campaign approaches its conclusion, we must not only celebrate our achievements but also embrace the responsibility to continue this momentum.
We call on communities, organizations, and individuals to join us in this final push and beyond. Your voice, your advocacy, and your support are crucial in shaping a future where affordable housing is not just a hope, but a reality for all. Together, let's commit to making a lasting impact and ensure that everyone has a decent, safe, and affordable place to call home.