When I attended a housing-focused conference right after Election Day last year, there was an understandable pall cast over any discussions of politics and political will.
So I thought this year’s National Low Income Housing Coalition’s conference might involve conversations about rearguard action, making do with less, scaling back expectations and goals. People are sober and realistic, certainly, but nonetheless, the current political realities seem to have refocused and possibly reenergized advocates to be thinking about big goals — building electoral power, speaking with one voice, and demanding full funding for housing programs.
It was clear that Michelle Singleterry, the personal finance expert who opened the conference, hit a nerve with the line “No more crumbs.” I think I’ve heard half a dozen conversations so far that included “It’s like the speaker said: no more crumbs!”
Brian Braley, of the Housing Authority Insurance Group, offered a similar theme that seemed to resonate when he spoke in a workshop on prospects for funding the National Housing Trust Fund. He quoted what union groups used to say to him when he was a city HR director: “There’s more of us than there are of you.” He suggested that advocates for the needs of low-income people and those fighting back agains the painting of working people as somehow the cause of state and local fiscal crises take that as their rallying cry in upcoming electoral battles.
One advocate from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, told me he thought the political shift had been a necessary wake up call. But, he noted, it still hurts people along the way.
Since NLIHC is nonpartisan they can’t work on electoral strategies directly, but they are very active in turning out constituents to speak with all of their elected officials about the needs of their communities and they will be fanning out to Congress tomorrow, March 30, to do just that. Many may also join National Alliance of HUD Tenants in their rally protesting proposed cuts to veterans housing, HUD housing for disabled tenants, public housing, and more as proposed in HR 1. The rally will take place at 2 p.m. at the Center for Creative Nonviolence Homeless Shelter, 425 Second Street, NW, Washington, DC.