Advocates across Michigan are kicking off a summer-long initiative called Legislators Building Communities (LBC), aiming to directly engage state elected officials on affordable housing and community development issues. The initiative is led by Living in Michigan, a coalition of over 20 statewide housing and community development organizations, and is co-chaired by NLIHC state partner Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM).
LBC’s goal is to engage every state legislator in hands-on community projects throughout the summer. Projects range from home building and renovation to foreclosure counseling intake and homeless counts, as well as neighborhood clean-ups and community garden work. Engaging elected officials through LBC serves the dual purpose of better educating legislators about the on-the-ground realities in their districts, and giving local community groups and coalitions the opportunity to build relationships with their representatives. Advocates point out that most of Michigan’s legislators are in their first term, and come from diverse professional backgrounds. LBC aims to expose them both to the range of needs in their districts and the innovative initiatives led by local organizations.
CEDAM and its partners hope that giving elected officials this perspective will help garner support as advocates move forward with affordable housing and community development campaigns. Additionally, through publicizing LBC events, advocates hope to increase media coverage and public awareness of housing and community development issues.
LBC was inspired by the success of the Michigan Legislative Build, a similar event which CEDAM and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan led in 2008. The 2008 Legislative Build resulted in 112 of Michigan’s 148 state legislators participating in 59 hands-on projects. With LBC, the Living in Michigan Coalition strives to increase the number of legislators and organizations participating, as well as to broaden the scope of projects.
This year, Living in Michigan coalition members are engaging hundreds of local nonprofit groups to host and participate in LBC projects. Legislators from both sides of the aisle are serving in advisory roles for the initiative, and are actively encouraging their colleagues in the state legislature to participate. The legislative advisors are planning to introduce a resolution about LBC and talk to their caucuses about the effort. The coalition will host a kick-off event at the end of April and the LBC effort will conclude in September with a closing celebration that advocates hope will draw media coverage.
“We’re really excited about LBC,” said Katie Fritz, CEDAM’s Policy and Program Manager. “It will benefit everyone who participates: it’s a meaningful and positive event for legislators, it’s a way for local organizations to get to know their elected officials, and it’s a chance for everyone to get positive media exposure. It also gives advocates an opportunity to show legislators how supporting investments in affordable housing and community development makes a real difference.”
For more information on Legislators Building Communities, visit CEDAM’s webpage on the project at http://blog.cedam.info/2011/02/legislators-building-communities/ or contact Katie Fritz at email@example.com.