Raising affordable housing on the national agenda will happen only when candidates understand the issue is important to voters. A recent national poll shows that more than 8 in 10 think housing affordability should be a national priority for policy makers, but candidates need to hear directly from their constituents early and often on the campaign trail. With the recent surge in presidential candidates talking about their plans to address the nation’s housing affordability crisis, it is on all of us to keep up the drumbeat and to make sure candidates at all levels tell voters what they will do to end homelessness and housing poverty.
Advocates are encouraged to host affordable housing forums with candidates—national, state or local—in your communities. The NLIHC-led Our Homes, Our Votes: 2020 project provides a candidate-engagement tool kit with practical tips on how to have a successful candidate forum. Here are just a few:
- Keep it nonpartisan: This means inviting all the candidates for an elected position - and not just the Democrat and Republican candidates. Inviting only the major parties shows partisan preference to those two groups.
- Bring cameras and invite the media: Do your best to get commitments from media outlets to broadcast the event or cover it in their publications. Let the candidates know the media has been invited. Use live-streaming options such as Facebook or consider posting recordings to your website or blog.
- Make it easy to attend: Especially when organizing events at which many attendees may be low-income, always consider the barriers that could keep people from attending. Offer food or childcare services, which can often be coordinated through volunteers. If you have the capacity, organize carpools to the event to boost attendance
Check out the tool kit for a full description of concrete ideas and best practices for having a successful candidate forum. While there, check out the other resources for engaging candidates and raising housing affordability as a top issue in the elections.
Affordable homes are built with ballots!