Grassroots Advocacy Network
With the support of The Kresge Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, NCHH expanded its efforts to eradicate unhealthy living conditions through an initiative called the Grassroots Advocacy Network for Healthy Housing. The Grassroots Advocacy Network developed local solutions to the challenging problem of substandard housing and neighborhoods.
NCHH facilitated peer communication, offered technical assistance and capacity-building support, disseminated promising practices in organizing and housing policy, and provided opportunities for involvement in national advocacy work.
NCHH awarded subgrants of up to $15,000 to community-based organizations to:
- Create local demand for healthy housing through media outreach, policy advocacy, community meetings, and other activities;
- Educate policymakers and the public about unhealthy conditions;
- Hold public agencies accountable (e.g., to ensure that local housing maintenance codes are enforced);
- Create and sustain valuable collaboration between the public and private sectors and within government; and
- Other methods most appropriate to the local context.
First-year results from this program:
- In Lewiston, Maine, housing code enforcement activities are now at an all-time high due to the work of the Visible Community, whose weekly meetings with the housing code office improved accountability. Seriously deteriorated buildings were suspended from rental activity while property owners added other affordable safe housing units to the inventory. The group explored ways to hold banks accountable for keeping foreclosed properties in decent repair through a fine of up to $500 per day for code violations, a policy that has been used in Denver, Colorado, and Oakland, California.
- In Chicago, Illinois, a mandatory inspection program is actively moving forward.
- In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the city council enacted an ordinance which would add systematic inspections of single-family housing (previously, only multifamily units were covered). This will be a good model for other places, since it is typical for one and two units to be left out of the inspection process, and data show that these units are frequently high risk for lead.