The nonprofit campaign ReThink: Why Housing Matters doesn’t shy away from the negative stereotypes around public housing—but it isn’t afraid to knock them down, either.
The phrase “public housing,” for better or worse, can feel like loaded language, due to the perceptions the phrase carries for many.
But a nonprofit campaign called ReThink: Why Housing Matters is working to change the perceptions around public housing. The collaboration between the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), and the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA) aims to emphasize the positive effects public and affordable housing can have as a way to improve the lives of populations in need.
The campaign, as highlighted in the ad above, grapples with the stereotypes head-on, highlighting an array of people who live in public housing discussing both the criticisms they’ve heard about it, along with the progress they’ve actually made in their lives.
“Public housing is not where someone’s story ends,” the ad states. “This is where brighter lives and better futures begin.”
ReThink, which is also sponsored by the public housing insurance firm HAI Group, aims to point out that the audience of public housing is underserved and not everyone who could benefit from subsidized housing actually sees its benefits. Despite public and affordable housing services supporting as many as 13 million people in the U.S., another 27.8 million people are believed to also be in a position to benefit from such service.
“What most people likely don’t realize is that the issue of public and affordable housing doesn’t just affect residents—it affects the entire country,” HAI’s Courtney Rice wrote in a post on Next City earlier this month. “If we were to provide all cost-burdened, low-income renter households in the U.S. with rental assistance, the country could reallocate $48.8 billion in rent savings into local businesses and industries beyond the rental market and increase family savings.”
The ongoing campaign, which has also produced a feature-length documentary narrated by the singer Jewel, has received solid reviews from the nonprofit sector: Last week, Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Jim Schaffer spoke positively of the program, calling it “possibly the most robust and effective PSA initiative addressing housing issues.”
It’s a message that could thoughtfully reshape a discussion that’s long been burdened by loaded words.