Affordable housing can be a hard concept to sell |

Affordable housing can be a hard concept to sell

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

RENO – Dozens of government officials from around the nation attended a seminar Wednesday that focused on how to bolster support for affordable housing in their communities.

“The definition of affordable housing? Everybody has a different definition,” said Dave Clark, a council member from Loveland, Colo.

The gathering was geared toward helping these officials get a positive message out about the need, including ways to deal with the media. It was among events held during the National League of Cities convention in Reno, which continues through Saturday.

It’s not an easy message to deliver because for most people “their home is their major asset,” said Julie Bornstein, president of the Campaign for Affordable Housing, a nonprofit group based in Los Angeles. “And if we believe our investment is challenged, we’re going to fight for it.”

“It’s not the building – it’s the perception of whose going to live in it,” she said . “Putting a face on who is going to live in it is critical.”

It’s only fair these people be able to live in our community as well, Bornstein said.

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“The fairness argument plays well with most Americans. It’s a value most of us hold,” she added.

Bringing community leaders from business – people representing management and labor – is just a start. Other segments that could help get the message across to the entire community include local clergy, charitable organizations, law enforcement and social services.

It’s also important to ask this question of people – especially long-time residents: “Can you afford to buy your home today?” she said.

Some government officials are using different phrases to describe it because “affordable housing” conjures up an image that isn’t always positive.

“Work force” is to describe the types of residents who will use it and “takes away the belief that the (occupants) aren’t working,” she said. Other terms include “inclusive communities” or “homes affordable.”

Having a variety of housing types is important in all communities, said Bobbie Christensen, the campaign’s director of communication strategies.

When one goes shopping, they’ll be able to find “not just filet mignon but hamburger” and “not just Mercedes but also Toyotas,” she said.

This should also apply to housing choices because a community without a variety of housing types – style and price range – “is going to be a deteriorating community,” Christensen said.

This can be seen in towns and cities where many adult children live at home and where two families share larger single-family residences because they have no other choice.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at or 882-2111, ext. 215.


Many of the objections cited “are stereotypes,” said Julie Bornstein, president of the Los Angeles-based lobbying group Campaign for Affordable Housing.

Many communities have proven these opinions wrong with innovative projects that fit their residents’ needs:

Affordable housing:

– is not ugly

– won’t increase traffic

– doesn’t add to the crime rate

– won’t overburden schools and infrastructure

– doesn’t lower property values

For details about the Campaign for Affordable Housing, visit