11.12.2010

Other Reasons to Want More Affordable Housing


I had the pleasant opportunity to speak at the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania's "Homes within Reach" conference earlier this week in Harrisburg. This is an energetic and devoted group of affordable housing advocates that I always like being with.

For my session, I assembled two Philadelphia-based colleagues of mine, Maisha Jackson of TJ and Associates and Jay Appleton of Kitchen and Associates, to help me provide the audience with additional talking points in support of affordable housing. In other words, the central message of affordable housing advocacy is the inherent importance of affordable housing; but, it is useful to make decision-makers aware of the other benefits that accrue when more affordable housing is made available.

My points, about the upfront and ongoing economic benefits of affordable housing, were forgettable. But I found Maisha's and Jay's remarks to be very thoughtful and profound. Maisha, who spoke about environmental issues, noted that too often we reserve "greening" actions for the "have's," giving little consideration that it is in fact the "have not's" that have the most to gain from energy efficiency, and so why aren't we trying to figure out how to bring "green" into affordable housing discussions. Jay, who spoke about how design matters, properly framed his points around the central premise that design matters and affordable housing matters because people matter; sounds logical, but how often have we heard planners, engineers, architects, and designers act as if the built form is central and the human users merely cosmetic.

All in all, it was a great session and a great gathering. Kudos to Maisha and Jay, and to the good people at the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania for all they do on this important issue.

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