Written by Kara Mergl
State Policy Director, CSH
Tomorrow is a big day for 36 states across America as voters head to the polls to decide who will be their next governor. While in just over half of these states incumbents are competing to keep their seats, the race is wide open for new leadership in the rest.
Governors set the tone for what’s to come through their policies and budgets. In an assessment of those priorities set forth by gubernatorial candidates, only 10% included issues related to affordable housing or housing financing and even fewer (just 6%) mentioned homeless prevention. But if supportive housing is a priority issue for you (and it should be), don't despair.
Considering the intersections between supportive housing and other areas such as health care, behavioral health, child welfare, and criminal justice, we as advocates have an opportunity to expand our voting consideration to those candidates who prioritize these subjects as well. Each of these priorities create an open door for discussions on the importance of access to safe, stable, affordable housing with integrated services.
Supportive housing provides independence and stability for individuals and families, allowing them to effectively maintain treatment for disabilities and illnesses, gain access to the workforce, and stay out of expensive institutions like prisons, hospitals, and foster care.
With this in mind, the landscape on candidate interest changes for the better. Approximately 12% of gubernatorial candidates included child welfare – keeping families together and supporting transition age youth – as part of their state priorities. Even more prioritize addressing behavioral health (25%) and more specifically the opioid crisis (49%), as well as making changes to the criminal justice system (43%). Perhaps it’s also no surprise that one of the most widely cited priority areas is healthcare, which was included by almost two-thirds of the candidates.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the priority areas was a catch-all category for the “vulnerable residents” of the states. Twenty percent (20%) of the candidates pledged their commitment to ensuring vulnerable residents would receive the support they need to thrive. In most cases the term “vulnerable residents” was not strictly defined, leaving the door wide open for supportive housing advocates to make the case for the individuals and families we serve.
While incumbent governors and gubernatorial hopefuls in your state may not be specifically calling out housing issues in their platforms, that doesn’t mean the conversation is completely off the table.
Consider each of the possible priority areas I've listed as a way to help guide your voting decisions and an opportunity avenue to advance supportive housing in your state. Most importantly, get out and vote tomorrow!