From the beginning, the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition has worked to secure the right to affordable housing for low-income Vermonters through state-level advocacy. By bringing together affordable housing providers, casework managers, and low-income housing support services from all corners of Vermont, the Coalition represents a powerful pro-affordable housing force in Montpelier.
Vermonters gathered at the 2020 Homeless Day of Awareness in Montpelier
Despite this demonstrated success, a critical voice remains underrepresented in the Coalition’s advocacy work: that of the residents themselves. How can we fully convey to our representatives the importance of perpetually affordable housing, without uplifting the voices, perspectives, and lived experiences of those who depend on it each and every day? More broadly, why is it that those who are most profoundly and existentially impacted by legislative outcomes are so frequently absent from the political processes that determine them?
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development Grant
Although the Coalition has grappled with these questions for some time now, we have historically lacked the resources required to fully engage in statewide resident organizing. However, following a multi-year application process, the Coalition is thrilled to announce that it received a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) this past summer. This CCHD grant will enable VAHC to significantly increase its resident organizing efforts.
In the coming months, the Coalition will work to create a statewide network of affordable housing residents ready and able to meaningfully participate in resident-driven, state-level affordable housing advocacy. We will begin by identifying potential resident leaders from across Vermont to form a steering committee , which we hope to eventually expand into an autonomous, resident-led organization.
Given the opaque and often inaccessible nuances of housing policy development and the advocacy process, Coalition staff members will support these resident leaders by providing community organizing and advocacy training modules. We hope these training modules will ultimately equip resident leaders with the tools to both sustain their organization and effectively engage in state-level advocacy.
RUN and RAP: Learning from organized residents in California and Washington
We are fortunate that our resident organizing effort will not be reinventing the wheel. Numerous advocacy wins from existing resident advocacy networks in California and Washington state demonstrate the powerful potential of engaging residents in the advocacy process.
RUN resident leaders in San Diego, CA
In 2013, Housing California formed the Resident United Network (RUN) in collaboration with the Center for Community Change, with the goal of “developing a first-of-its-kind, statewide resident base of power in California.” Two years later, in 2015, and likewise with support from the Center for Community Change, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance (the “Housing Alliance”) launched the Resident Action Project (RAP). Both RUN and RAP maintain a similar organizational structure, with a centralized, resident-led steering committee and geographically dispersed regional chapters to promote a genuinely statewide scope.
Since their formation, RUN and RAP have contributed to significant legislative victories. In California, RUN advocacy helped to pass SB2 in 2017, which established a permanent funding source for affordable housing, AB 447, which prevented property insurance companies from discriminating against residents with Housing Choice Vouchers, and finally SB 1380, which designated California as a “Housing First” state. In 2017, RAP organized an 8 Weeks of Action campaign that successfully pressured Washington state lawmakers to pass a Capital Budget with significant investment in the state Housing Trust Fund. RAP continues to regularly meet with and formally lobby lawmakers to advocate for issues around increasing investment in affordable housing development and ending the mechanisms of housing discrimination.
RAP resident leaders in Washington State
Today, RUN and RAP remain largely resident-led organizations. While staff members from Housing California and the Housing Alliance continuously provide organizational support to RUN and RAP respectively, residents continue to determine and dictate the organizing targets and legislative priorities of each organization.
As we move forward in forming a resident-led advocacy network, the Coalition is lucky to be able to to learn from the work of our national partners.
VAHC is hiring a new Resident Organizer!
With financial support from the CCHD grant, the Coalition is excited to announce that we will be hiring a new Resident Organizer, to help carry out this project. We are seeking an experienced Organizer with prior knowledge of the Vermont housing landscape.
The Resident Organizer will take a lead role in carrying out this project, in close collaboration with Talya Guenzburger, VAHC’s Resident Engagement AmeriCorps*VISTA, and other staff, Steering Committee members, and Coalition partners around the state. This is a one-year contracted, grant-funded position with the potential for renewal and expansion in the second year. The position is part-time and has an anticipated December start date. We have already received a number of qualified applicants, but will still be accepting last minute applications on a rolling basis. If you or someone you know meets the desired qualifications and is interested in this position, please send a cover letter and resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org | job description
What can you do to help?
As Coalition members, you and your organizations represent valuable partners in this organizing process. Many of you directly service and support the resident leaders who we hope to engage and bring into this advocacy network. Here are some things that you can do to support the initial stages of this project:
Think about your networks and how they could be used to connect with resident leaders.
Spread the word about this upcoming organizing initiative and our Resident Organizer job opening to the residents with whom you work as well as with your colleagues in the affordable housing world.
Connect us to residents leaders you think might be interested participating in state-level affordable housing advocacy.
We’ll be reaching out directly to our member organizations soon to ask for your help with this important initiative.
For more information, please contact Talya Guenzburger at email@example.com
Thanks as always for your support of the Coalition’s work!