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September 6, 2022

How to be a Housing Voter Series: Why do we vote?

By Liz Crouse

This is the first of a series of blog posts to prepare Habitat Charlotte Region supporters and the community at large on the impact that voting has on affordable housing and homeownership in the 2022 general election. Follow along to find out how you can make your voice heard this year to build a future where ultimately, everyone has access to a path toward affordable homeownership.

why do we vote?

It may seem like a simple place to start, but before we start talking about how and why to be a housing voter, we need to talk about how and why to be a voter.

In short, we vote to decide how we want the future to look. Voting is your chance to weigh in on who represents us, what causes they prioritize, and how we respond to a constantly changing world as individuals and communities.

While widely covered national elections are important, it’s also important to be aware of the state and local races that happen more frequently. And, if you think that voting only happens in November when all the campaign commercials come on TV, think again. Other important elections happen at different times in the year, such as primary and special elections, partisan races, for school board, sheriff, and judicial candidates.

how does voting affect affordable housing?

Many policies at the local, state, and federal levels influence affordable housing. Ranging from economic and social policies to city planning and infrastructure regulations, decision-makers impact all issue areas of affordable housing whether directly or indirectly.

When it comes to being a housing voter, local and state elections often have more impact than their national counterparts on affordable housing because these smaller governments can set and change zoning laws, allocate funds, and approve projects in specific districts.

When we talk about being a “housing voter” as a form of advocacy, we are basically talking about using your voice and your vote to make your representatives aware of the housing issues in your area and to let them know that affordable housing matters to you. After all, they are representatives: elected officials make decisions on behalf of their constituents so that people from all over the state and country have someone advocating for their needs in the government.

We need you to advocate for housing so that when your representatives advocate for you, housing is prioritized as an issue of top concern. That’s because we believe that everyone who lives and works in our community deserves safe, decent, and affordable places to live.

We also know that stable housing has dramatic, long-term effects on the families and communities that have it.

A 2019 study by UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute surveyed the outcomes of stable housing on children whose families lived in Habitat homes. The study found that once kids lived in stable housing, their test scores improved, they missed school less often, and they received fewer disciplinary measures such as suspensions. Their families became more independent, relying dramatically less on Food and Nutrition Services than before they were stably housed.

When families and individuals experience the benefits of stable housing and ultimately, the “American Dream” of homeownership, we have safer communities, increased graduation rates from high school, more participation in the workforce, additional tax revenue to support city services and lifted neighborhoods.

How do I become a housing voter?

1. First thing’s first: register to vote. You need to register to vote at least twenty days before you plan to head to the polls if you plan to vote on Election Day. You can register and vote on the same day if you participate in early voting. If you’re already registered, great job! Still, check your registration status just in case—occasionally, a system glitch or human error causes someone to lose their registration status.

2. Research your local elections. Find out who’s running in your area and what their platforms are. See if they have specific views or statements about affordable housing. Take the time to look through their websites—remember, anyone can say anything in a speech or commercial! Reading a candidate’s published platform is a more direct way to make sure you know exactly what they stand for.

3. Inform candidates about why affordable housing is important to you. Whether you prefer attending forums or making phone calls, there are so many ways to let candidates know that affordable housing is an issue you and your community care about. Make sure to let them know up front, especially if they’re running in their first election! Getting a candidate to champion affordable housing and homeownership issues from day one in office is a great way to ensure changes are made.

4. Make a plan to vote and encourage others to do the same. If you’re planning to vote in-person on Election Day, make sure you know where your assigned polling place is located. You also may need to take some time off work—lines can be hours long on Election Day! If you don’t have the time or resources to vote on Election Day itself, there are other options. You can participate in early voting at one of your district’s approved locations, or you can request an absentee ballot if you prefer to skip the booth altogether. Absentee ballots are also a great option if you want to research each candidate as you fill out your ballot!

With affordable housing supply diminishing and demand increasing, it’s imperative that we act now to move affordable housing to the top of our representatives’ priority lists. Do your part in the voting booth, and make sure to follow the steps above to make your voice heard in the next election!

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