Home Matters™ Links Community Voices

The silver lining of the 2008 - 2012 calamity in the housing market is the way in which the thousands of community development corporations (CDC’s), land trusts, community development financial institutions (CDFI’s) and nonprofit housing developers applied their energies and resources to support families and communities confronting the loss of a home or the destabilization of a neighborhood. These institutions, many quite small and often operating without regional or national partners, helped to mobilize key local resources and later were vital to the process of delivering federal resources, Neighborhood Stabilization Program and Community Development Block Grants to name two, to those most in need.

Family laughing on lawnAlthough in general terms all these institutions emphasize “community” in their mission as well as their name, it is “home” that is at the center of every effort to build and sustain thriving and growing families and neighborhoods. With this focus in mind, a coalition of community development partners have joined with the National NeighborWorks Association and banking industry leaders Citi and Wells Fargo, both NLC Capstone Corporate Partners,  to create the Home Matters™ program.

Although the nation is in the midst of a debate about the merits of home ownership over rental occupancy, several facts remains clear. A stable and decent home is a critical component in student educational success, improved health, safer streets and improved job opportunities.  It is this essential role of the home as a space to nurture and protect individuals, families and indeed entire communities that is at the heart of the Home Matters™ program.

“Home Matters is a nationwide movement that emphasizes the power of home [emphasis added],” said Chris Krehmeyer, executive director of Beyond Housing in St. Louis, a partner in this coalition. “We take action across sectors in St. Louis – housing, healthy food access, educational attainment and public safety. The partners in Home Matters are using the same kind of interconnected approach to link community stakeholders into a nationwide network and combine those local voices.”

The image of a home of one’s own continues to be part of any definition of the American Dream, even during a time when home ownership rates have slipped from a high of roughly 69 percent to about 65 percent. The benefit of a home as a social and economic refuge continues to have a strong influence, despite the years of crisis in foreclosures. “From Ohio, which has been at the epicenter of home foreclosures, we understand not only the human agony of the physical loss of foreclosed homes but also the crucial intangibles – family stability, personal health, confidence in the future – that are compromised as well,” said Lou Tisler, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland. “We understand the many crucial roles that home plays.”

The partners in the Home Matters coalition seek to cut through some of the arcane policy statistics and focus instead on the street-level stories that define the fabric of a place. Said Tisler, “Americans understand the impact of a home on the individual or family who lives there, but we don’t, as a society, realize how much more broadly this impact extends.” Going forward, Home Matters will seek to make use of home as the lever to advance the related agendas of economic prosperity, health and education. To find out more, visit the website at www.HomeMattersAmerica.com.

This case study was written by James Brooks, program director for the Housing and Community Development Program in the Center for Research and Innovation at the National League of Cities. He can be reached at brooks@nlc.org.