Advocates share realities of affordable housing

Too often, the term "affordable housing" carries negative connotations of everything from high-crime zones to run-down tenements. The reality, says Alicia Townsend of the Cincinnati Development Fund, holds the key to building better futures for those facing life-altering challenges.

From single parents to grandparents, tenants on the hunt for housing face fixed incomes, unexpected unemployment and other barriers to finding dependable shelter. "We want to get accurate info out about affordable housing and who needs it," says Townsend. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation recently awarded $20,000 to Cincinnati's Affordable Housing Advocates to do just that. "Someone who needs affordable housing might be your grandmother that can't maintain her home and lives on a fixed income."

Affordable Housing Advocates began in 1993 as a collaboration between the Cincinnati Development Fund, the United Way and the Legal Aid Society. The mission is to provide safe, accessible and affordable housing to residents in southwest Ohio.

The infusion of money supports AHA's Public Education and Awareness Campaign for Affordable Housing. "We have a big push on educating the public on the positive merits of affordable housing," Townsend says. "The grant will help us put into action a campaign plan for speakers and education forums."

Townsend says the education forums help dispel negative stereotypes and introduce the public to the people who need affordable housing, a group which newly single mothers, seniors, teachers, nurses and people newly released from treatment or prison programs.

The new education campaign targets two key demographics: youth between the ages of 16 and 24 and faith-based organizations, in part because the youth market is key to AHA's success, says Townsend. "They're the tastemakers," she says. "If you can get to them before they become homeowners, they have the ability to influence the adults around them."

Do Good:

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By Ryan McLendon

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