Later this month, I will transition out of my role as the Policy & Communications Director for Neighborhood Partnerships, and I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve collectively accomplished to help advance housing opportunity for Oregonians with low incomes across our state, as well as what is next for the coalition and the work from my perspective. While I won’t be around for the journey, I wanted to share some of what might be ahead for the Housing Alliance, ROC, and the housing justice movement.
Over the last six years, the Housing Alliance together has accomplished an incredible amount – we’ve helped to pass bills protecting renters from eviction and extreme rent increases, we’ve advocated for, and won, significantly increased funding for developing affordable housing – both rental and ownership opportunities, and we’ve worked to protect people’s housing stability through the last two plus years of a COVID emergency. To accomplish these things, we worked together as housing advocates, we worked in coalition, we lifted up the experiences of people who experienced homelessness or eviction, and we supported the work of housing champions. There is so much more to do, and far too many of our neighbors, friends, and community members are experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
The Housing Alliance has a long history of working together, and our work together has made the coalition who we are today – a coalition that strives to advance strong housing policy by bringing a range of perspectives and voices around the table. As we move forward, the coalition is in a strong place to support organizing with engaging with people directly impacted by housing instability and center their voices in our policy making.
So much else has changed for the better. In 2018, Neighborhood Partnerships hired an organizer in recognition that to build and shift power, we needed to meaningfully engage with residents of affordable housing and center their experiences and voices. I was able to see the ways in which their stories and experiences could create a new and different level of understanding with legislators and decision makers, and I was able to begin to see the ways in which their voices could change our policy proposals to really reflect their experiences and needs.
This journey began when residents of affordable housing began attending our lobby days as part of the Housing Alliance, but also asked – what about what we think? When do we get to help decide what we’re advocating for? And so, in 2018, we began working with Community Change to launch what is now Residents Organizing for Change or ROC Oregon. ROC is an amazing group of leaders who live in affordable housing, who need affordable housing, or are front line staff. (Check it out this amazing video about ROC here!)
These amazing ROC leaders bring a critical perspective to many of our Housing Alliance discussions. ROC leaders sit alongside Executive Directors, Case Managers, Policy Directors, and others to share the perspective of people directly impacted by the lack of affordable housing in our communities.
The very existence of ROC has been an important part of NP’s equity journey. People with lived experience with housing instability must be centered in identifying solutions, making decisions at the coalition table, and advocating for solutions to the housing crisis our communities face for lasting systems change and equitable outcomes. ROC supports people directly impacted by housing instability to have a seat and voice both at the Housing Alliance decision-making table and to create their own policy table, and to be meaningfully included in housing advocacy decisions and strategy. This year, ROC members are bringing forward a policy proposal for consideration for the 2023 Housing Opportunity Agenda.
The Housing Alliance can become – and it is Neighborhood Partnerships’ intention to support the coalition to become one that truly centers racial equity and the voices of people with lived experience of housing instability. We have started this work, but there is significantly more to do. To truly address the racial disparities baked into our housing systems that were created by decades of discriminatory housing policies, funding practices, and other policies that actively create harm for BIPOC communities, we must center the voices of BIPOC community members, and work to center the coalition around this purpose and goal. Neighborhood Partnerships’ already has expertise in, and experience working with partners to engage in an equity centered design process which can help the coalition engage in this work.
Later this year, Neighborhood Partnerships will release a new strategic plan that will help to support these efforts by focusing on organizing with people with lived experience with housing instability, continuing our work to shift narratives to support change, and centering racial equity.
The Housing Alliance has been, is, and will continue to be an incredible team effort filled with amazing advocates, leaders, and allies. It has been my honor to work alongside you to advance housing justice in Oregon. Thank you.