Defining the relationship between the Housing Alliance and the Resident Action Project
The Resident Action Project is a project of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, and our work is supported by the Center for Community Change. (Throughout this document “Housing Alliance” refers to the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance and the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund.)
This document lays out the Housing Alliance’s overall goals for the Resident Action Project, the roles of the different groups involved, the constraints of organizing, and how all participants can be in a mutually accountable relationship.
The Housing Alliance’s Goals
The Housing Alliance began conversations with the Center for Community Change about organizing work with residents of affordable homes that they were supporting in California in early 2015 called the Residents United Network. The Residents United Network – through relationships with nonprofit housing developers – aims to organize with residents of affordable homes to build power to push for more affordable homes and solutions to homelessness. Seeing as the Housing Alliance was uniquely positioned to launch a similar effort in Washington state, the organization decided to start the Resident Action Project with the support of the Center.
Why are we doing this? We know we need to build political power to ensure that everybody in the state of Washington has the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home in a thriving community and to end homelessness. The Housing Alliance aims to build a movement around affordable housing. We know that the folks who understand these issues the best are people who are directly impacted, and we know that movements are authentic only when people who are directly impacted are involved in the political process to push for change. Because the Housing Alliance already has relationships with many nonprofit housing providers, we know where many folks who are directly impacted live and therefore are able to reach out to them and invite them into organizing around the issues.
We need to build power because, with the current political climate, the policies and budget asks that we are able to pass at the state legislature are small and important steps to solving a huge problem. As we build power with residents of affordable homes and others who are directly impacted by this crisis, we will be able to support the passing the policies and budget asks that are currently politically viable while simultaneously building power and pushing for broader change. We want leaders in the Resident Action Project to have the opportunity to have a voice in defining the broader vision for change and to develop skills to build and take leadership in a movement around that vision.
The Housing Alliance’s ultimate goal in hosting the Resident Action Project is to build power. Importantly, we want this effort to include and build leadership of people who are most directly impacted in organizing. This includes people who live in affordable homes, people who are low-income, and people who have experienced homelessness. We recognize that communities of color, people who are differently abled, people who identify as LGBTQ+, veterans, and single parent households are disproportionately represented in that group of folks.
The people who are involved in the project will have the opportunity to work together to determine what issues the group will work on, what strategies the group will to use, and how the group will be structured. The Housing Alliance will provide opportunities for people who are directly impacted to develop leadership skills around organizing, policy work, and more.
We will also include nonprofit partners in this organizing effort. We know that nonprofit staff and other direct services staff work with folks who are directly impacted every day and are well positioned to organize and advocate for more affordable homes and an end to homelessness. They also serve as gatekeepers to contacting residents of affordable homes and others who are directly impacted.
There are four groups of folks involved in the Resident Action Project: people who are directly impacted, nonprofit and direct services staff, Housing Alliance and Center for Community Change staff, and other community members who are interested in the work. Each of these groups has a specific role in the work.
The role of people who are directly impacted – sometimes referred to as resident leaders – is to guide the direction and action of the Resident Action Project. As mentioned above, we will work to provide leadership development opportunities for this group to be involved in policy work, strategizing, organizing, and more.
The role of nonprofit and direct services staff is to support leaders in attending events and carrying out action. Nonprofit and direct services staff should also be involved in envisioning the strategy and organizing of RAP, and we have structures in place to ensure that their input does not overshadow the input of leaders.
The role for the staff at the Housing Alliance and the Center for Community Change is to take all of the input that we get from leaders and nonprofit staff and propose our best ideas for how to move forward to leaders for feedback. Staff will provide training and leadership development opportunities for resident leaders so resident leaders can take on more leadership roles in the project.
The role for community members is to support the work of resident leaders and nonprofit staff, offer input, and participate in actions.
Constraints in Organizing
While the Housing Alliance supports the leadership of people who are directly impacted in this organizing work, there are some things that we are unable to support from the Resident Action Project because of our position in the broader affordable housing community.
1) The Housing Alliance has organizational members and some are housing providers/landlords for folks who are in the Resident Action Project. Because the inherent complication of that, we cannot support organizing directed toward our nonprofit partners. If any participant in the Resident Action Project has an issue with a landlord, we will refer them to the Tenant’s Union of Washington. We do believe that nonprofit housing providers and public housing authorities should strive to some of the best landlords in our communities and should have systems in place to respond to tenant concerns. While we won’t organize on building or organization specific issues, we will encourage tenants to assert their rights and organize with their neighbors if necessary.
2) The Housing Alliance holds anti-oppressive and anti-racist values. We will not support organizing that goes against these values. Additionally, we will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, ableism, or other forms of oppression in our organizing spaces.
3) The supports that the Housing Alliance will give to the Resident Action Project on any given campaign will depend on whether or not those supports could create a conflict for our work in Olympia. For example, if the Resident Action Project takes on rent control in the context of the 2017 legislative session, we could offer support in terms of staff time dedicated to the project, but we couldn’t send out action alerts to our whole membership about rent control. Because the political realities are constantly changing, discretion will be left up to the Housing Alliance on how we will be able to support various RAP efforts.
4) Finally, the Housing Alliance holds values of community, justice, fairness, and teamwork. We want to support organizing that is more transformational than transactional. This means that we support organizing strategies that will be effective and impactful, which includes valuing relationship-building and community as a key element to building power. We believe that wins come from sound organizing strategies and building community infrastructure through relationships with one another.
A note: resident leaders will have the opportunity to learn organizing skills that can be used in more spaces than just the Resident Action Project, and resident leaders are encouraged to use the skills they gain in other spaces as they see fit.
RAP will determine what issues to prioritize for advocacy. If RAP members want to take on a policy campaign that is not on the Housing Alliance agenda, they will be asked to answer these questions. The Housing Alliance will respond to the proposal with the level of support that we can provide. The Housing Alliance may also seek involvement from RAP on issues where grassroots support could make a significant impact, and will provide opportunities for RAP to give input during the annual agenda setting process.
Please describe what project the Resident Action Project would like to work on and why.
What are RAP’s goals for this project?
What is RAP’s strategy, and how will it be implemented?
How will this project advance anti-oppression goals and your vision for housing justice?
What overall goals for the Resident Action Project will this project meet?
What kind of support does RAP need to make this happen?
We will convene a statewide steering committee with at least 66% representation of leaders who are directly impacted that will help to guide the work of RAP and bridge the relationship between RAP and the Housing Alliance. The Housing Alliance will provide support through staff time dedicated to the work of the Resident Action Project and a budget for RAP meetings and logistics.
It is important to us that the lines of communication between the Resident Action Project and the Housing Alliance are open, transparent, and honest – both so we can share resources and information with one another and so we can be accountable to each other in the larger movement for affordable homes and an end to homelessness.