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Encouraging Civic Engagement Among Low-Income Residents

By Communications and Fundraising Manager, Halley Henry


You know the saying “It Takes a Village”?

Typically followed by “… to raise a child,” the saying is a metaphor for a task that requires collaboration and all hands on deck.

For the past few years, the National Housing Trust (NHT) has done some nonpartisan Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts at the properties owned by our affiliate, NHT-Enterprise. These efforts were successful (number of registered voters at our properties increased as did voter turnout), and it made us wonder: how could we make this initiative even more successful?

That’s where our village comes in.

In 2017, NHT launched Where Will We Live, a grassroots engagement campaign that aims to raise the voices of low-income families living in affordable housing. As part of the campaign, NHT has revamped its nonpartisan GOTV initiative and rolled it into our larger Resident Engagement Workplan. The new effort is not only portfolio-wide, touching more than 3,700 affordable housing units, but its model stems from collaboration and peer learning.

A Two-pronged Effort

The first part of the Resident Engagement Workplan uses many of the nonpartisan GOTV tactics we’ve successfully used in the past. Under the workplan, our nonpartisan GOTV effort is portfolio-wide, and includes partners’ properties.

This approach includes working with local nonpartisan civic engagement groups, including the League of Women Voters, to set up voter information tables at each property. These tables provide residents with on-site voter registration services, information on early and absentee voting, resources for transportation to polls, and opt-in options for election day reminders.

In addition to the voter information tables, we also mail nonpartisan, bi-lingual election reminder postcards to each apartment. These postcards include the date of the election, information on finding the resident’s polling place, resources for transportation to the polls, and more. The same information presented in the postcard also appears on flyers posted around the property.

The second prong of NHT’s workplan starts directly with the residents. Beginning this fall, NHT will host a series of nonpartisan Resident Leadership Workshops designed to educate interested residents in the history of systemic discrimination and segregation perpetuated by federal housing policy. and help them become leaders in their communities in order to promote change.

NHT is also working with property management staff and resident services coordinators to promote ongoing opportunities within the community where residents can begin to engage or deepen existing engagement. These opportunities range from PTSA meetings at schools to upcoming nonpartisan candidate forums.

Many of these communities are already tightly-knit and residents lean on each other for things like childcare and transportation. They are already a ‘village.’ Through leadership workshops and help from property staff, community leaders can emerge and encourage others to become civically engaged. Together, residents can make the change they want to see starting in their own neighborhood, then their state, and ultimately, on the federal level.

Voter Working Group

As part of NHT’s Resident Engagement Workplan, we are also launching the Voter Working Group (VWG).

The VWG brings together a variety of organizations all with the same goal — to encourage resident engagement among low-income residents. GOTV efforts are naturally geographically based, making collaboration not only possible, but almost inevitable. The VWG meets once a month to discuss current work, share information, discuss regional collaboration opportunities and streamline GOTV initiatives across the board.

For more information on NHT’s resident engagement initiatives or Where Will We Live, contact NHT Communications and Fundraising Manager, Halley Henry.