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Why start a housing committee?

Housing committees can play an important role in community-based approaches to local housing needs. These groups, whether they are formal municipal committees, informal citizen discussion groups, or anything in between, can document existing housing stock, assess housing gaps, and influence local policy. Housing committees can benefit communities of any size, as evidenced by the many committees working around the state -- and their many successes, ranging from local zoning changes to the creation of Housing Trust Funds

Check out this webinar on Housing Committees as a Tool to Meet Local Housing Needs, recorded August 25, 2020. 

What could it look like? 

Here are a few examples of different housing committee structures. As community need, capacity, and interest changes, you can expand your committee and change its structure.

  • Housing discussion meet-ups: Community members who are passionate about fair and affordable housing can meet to discuss possible solutions in an informal way. This option allows people with less housing knowledge or background to become more informed in a supportive setting. This structure is excellent for increasing public awareness if affordable housing is a relatively new topic of discussion in your community.
  • Resident advocacy group: Another way to utilize passion and expertise around affordable housing is through a resident advocacy group. This structure functions outside of municipal government and advises local decision-makers about affordable and fair housing initiatives. One of the benefits of this structure is that it allows for community-based advocacy for systemic change.
  • Town-supported committee: Housing committees that use this common structure function as either a subcommittee of a municipal planning commission or as a separate municipal housing committee. The municipality can establish an ad hoc committee with the mission of examining a specific subject (such as the need for affordable housing or special needs housing) or it can be a standing committee with the ongoing mission of reporting annually to the Planning Commission on the community’s housing needs.

Important questions before starting a committee

  • What is the goal of the committee? 
  • Will the committee be resident-driven or municipally driven?
  • Will the committee be project-based or a standing committee?
    • Is there a specific issue or initiative that needs to be completed?
    • Or will the committee be handling long-term affordable housing solutions and multiple initiatives?
  • What is your committee’s timeline? 
    • For establishment? 
    • To complete a specific project? 
    • Are there any deadlines to consider?
  • Who should be on the committee?

Potential housing committee activities

  • Conduct a housing needs assessment
  • Ensure that your municipal plan supports housing 
  • Pursue changes that will help meet needs identfied in the housing needs assessment, including 
    • Inclusionary housing incentives or requirements
    • Accessory dwelling unit zoning
    • AirBnB and other short-term rentals
    • Accessibility opportunities for rehabilitating older units
  • Create a Housing Trust Fund
  • Advise planning commission and elected officials about housing impacts of existing land use regulations and upcoming municipal decisions   
  • Improve community understanding about the relationships between housing affordability, equity and economic vibrancy.