Supportive housing projects and the organizations that create them should not be isolated from the larger neighborhood and community. Whether developing a new building that will include multiple units of supportive housing or leasing units of private market rental housing that are scattered in many locations, there are opportunities to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the community.
Your strategy and approach to building connections and support within the community will vary based on the unique aspects of your neighborhood or supportive housing project. Projects of all types, however, should address the following questions:
- How can our organization become involved in the community or communities in which supportive housing tenants will live? Is there a neighborhood association we can join? Are there community policing meetings that we can attend?
- Are there community needs that our project could address? Could we help to start a neighborhood watch? Could our project include a community garden or gym? Are there services that we could make available to all community members, like employment training or child care?
- Is there community opposition to supportive housing? If so, what is the most effective way to address it? Are there opportunities to educate the public about the benefits of supportive housing? Should this be done in individual conversations with concerned neighbors or in a larger community meeting or forum?
Projects that are acquiring a site for supportive housing, particularly those in which a change in zoning or other local approvals may be required, will need a formal strategy for building community support. Developing a proactive and collaborative strategy to obtain needed local government approvals and address any community opposition for the project can be done in six steps:
- The development team meets early to research, assess and plan in the five key areas outlined below.
- Prepare a political strategy that coordinates all your work toward getting needed votes.
- Prepare a strategy to build active community support for your proposal.
- Prepare a strategy to work through community concerns and deal with active opposition.
- Prepare a strategy to protect and use your legal rights.
- Prepare a public relations/media strategy to send your message to decision-makers and the public.
This individual planning approach is like a ‘due diligence’ process, in which you consider and make deliberate decisions. Conducting this planning process is not the same as deciding to adopt a high-visibility entry with early notification of neighbors. Rather, whether to notify neighbors (and, if so, how and when) is one decision in this process.
To learn more about the six steps to building community support, please download Six Steps to Building Community Support.
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