As associations continue to advocate for housing for all, association executives are weighing the words used to effectively convey that message.
Although “affordable housing” is a commonly used term, some argue that phrase can hold a stigma by implying subsidized housing.
“Attainable” can have the same challenge. “Attainable for whom?” asked Laurie Benner, associate vice president of housing and community development, National Fair Housing Alliance, during a discussion on The Hub (thehub.realtor). “Both are terms … that tend to confuse people.”
In Texas, Amber Burton, director of governmental affairs and advocacy at the Houston Association of REALTORS®, says her association started a task force in 2019 to address the issue. “We flipped it to ‘housing affordability’ and saw a huge uptick in interest,” she said on The Hub discussion. That, added Kyle Kershner, federal political coordinator at Vermont Association of REALTORS®, is “a subtle but important differentiation and one that is easily understood by the public.”
HAR held a housing symposium for its members with experts from various industries discussing issues that impact the cost of housing and how all sectors of the real estate industry can work better together to support housing for all. “I’m happy to help share our blueprint if other associations are interested in having a similar event,” says Burton, who encourages members to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Also, this event was funded by the NAR Housing Opportunity Grant.”
Christine Windle, RCE, director of community outreach at the National Association of REALTORS®, oversees the grant program and recommends that AEs focus less on terminology and more on a strategy and approach to solving local housing issues.
Here are some examples:
- Columbus REALTORS® in Ohio attracted more than 100 members and community partners when it hosted a Tiny Home Forum to explore the viability of these small dwellings as an affordable and energy-efficient alternative for buyers who might be priced out of the conventional market. A Housing Opportunity Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible—including an on-site tiny house for participants to tour.
- Spokane Association of REALTORS® in Washington state is working with city leaders to host a regional housing summit to bring stakeholders together and put recommendations into play following a Counselors of Real Estate report that defined action steps to increase Spokane’s housing inventory—one of the lowest in the nation.
The final word on The Hub came from Ohio broker Rick DeLuca, AHWD, MRP: “There’s only a stigma to any word if we create the stigma. … Use whatever word you want, but don’t forget to do what we are supposed to be doing: helping others with their housing choices, be it a home to buy or housing to rent.”