In the final weeks of Alabama’s legislative session, NLIHC state coalition partner, the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama (LIHCA), is partnering with allies across the state and in the State House to establish a housing trust fund. Currently, Alabama is one of five states without a state or local housing trust fund.
Started in 2007, LIHCA is the only housing advocacy coalition in Alabama that specifically focuses on low income residents. Establishing the state’s housing trust fund and increasing affordable housing opportunities for low income households are LIHCA’s key priorities.
On March 29, LIHCA member and state Representative Patricia Todd introduced HB 349, which establishes a state affordable housing trust fund to produce and maintain rental and homeownership options for low income residents. After the bill was introduced, LIHCA launched its first ever housing advocacy day, sending 30 members from across the state to meet with 24 legislators.
The advocacy day generated support for the housing trust fund from several representatives including Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Soon after, the house unanimously passed HB 349. The legislation is currently in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee waiting for committee action. Advocates have identified a lead sponsor in the state senate to champion the bill.
With only two weeks left in the session, LIHCA and other advocates across the state are focusing on creating new relationships with state senators and using their campaign message. With the help of Mary Brooks of the Housing Trust Fund Project at the Center for Community Change, who is also an NLIHC board member, LIHCA has trained many of its 200 members and board members on effective messaging.
Recognizing that different messages resonate with difference audiences, LIHCA developed multiple messages. Based on public opinion research on messaging for affordable housing from eight states, advocates developed messages using concepts such as security, opportunity, and the concept of reward for hard work. The primary campaign theme is, “Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed in life; in Alabama this begins with a place to call home.” To connect with legislators concerned with children’s issues, advocates modified this message to focus on the needs of children.
“We’re beginning to see public sentiments change as more and more Alabamians are being affected by the numerous natural disasters hitting the Gulf Coast. Alabama alone lost 14,000 homes as a result of the recent tornadoes, not to mention the thousands of homes damaged or lost during the hurricanes of the previous years. Alabama low income families have been struggling long before the disasters. Now more than ever, they are trying to find a place they call home,” says Ashley Kerr of LIHCA. “That’s the message we bring to our legislators and why a state housing trust fund is so needed.”