NLIHC released a report on June 16 on the role of ballot measure campaigns in securing new resources for affordable homes, strengthening tenant protections, and solving homelessness. The report, “Housing on the Ballot: How to Organize a Successful Ballot Measure Campaign for Affordable Homes,” reviews best practices for launching campaigns, building coalitions, communicating about ballot measures, and elevating the leadership of directly impacted communities. In addition to summarizing significant ballot measures related to housing and homelessness from the 2020 and 2021 election cycles, the report provides case studies from three cities where housing advocates recently achieved significant victories at the ballot box – Philadelphia, PA; St. Paul, MN; and Denver, CO – to offer deeper insights into proven strategies for organizing winning campaigns. The report was authored by members of NLIHC’s nonpartisan Our Homes, Our Votes initiative, which aims to increase voter participation among low-income renters and to educate candidates about housing solutions.
Ballot-measure advocacy is treated as lobbying under federal tax law and is permitted (with important restrictions) for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. Recent election cycles have demonstrated that bringing the issue directly to voters is an effective way to achieve housing solutions. Even in cities and states where elected officials are hesitant to commit new resources to affordable housing or establish new tenant protections, voters are eager to enact bolder policies.
Mobilizing voters around a ballot measure takes significant planning and resources, but recent successes show that these efforts are worth the investment. Drawing on lessons learned from winning campaigns in 2020 and 2021, the report offers concrete takeaways for organizers as they launch ballot measure campaigns in the 2022 election cycle, including the following:
- Know the basics of ballot measures.
- Design the campaign based on your resources and capacity.
- Build a strong and diverse base of support.
- Mobilize and follow the leadership of directly impacted communities.
- Develop clear messaging.
- Harness the media.
- Organize accessible campaign activities.
- Integrate voter registration and mobilization into the campaign.