There is no denying that the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. has been divisive over the past few months. Early this month, political differences were set aside as Habitat for Humanity welcomed over 300 passionate individuals to unite in support of safe and affordable housing for a conference themed One Vision, Many Voices.
At Habitat on the Hill 2017, Habitat for Humanity staff members, board members, homeowners, volunteers and youth from across the country gathered to discuss Habitat for Humanity’s legislative priorities, attended advocacy and policy-related workshops, and held over 330 face-to-face meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As many members of U.S. Congress assumed their new offices, Habitat on the Hill attendees provided them with a warm welcome by sharing the importance of affordable housing and the impact of Habitat for Humanity on a national and global scale.
In an eye-opening presentation, Matthew Desmond, author of the New York Times bestseller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, shed light on the shockingly high levels of forced eviction in the United States and spoke of the “perpetual slums” that exist in this country. Slum upgrading at the domestic and international level require increased investment in infrastructure and just as the new U.S. administration introduced a proposed $1 trillion infrastructure appropriation, Habitat for Humanity representatives provided a reminder to U.S. Congress that housing is infrastructure. Secure housing is a key factor of sustainable development and investing in affordable housing infrastructure leads to economic, social, and environmental gains
In addition to promoting programs that support the affordable housing sector in the U.S., the Solid Ground campaign provided a platform for attendees to align in support of the global need for adequate shelter. On the final day of the conference, Solid Ground hosted a panel discussion including Jill Pike from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Gustavo Gutierrez of Habitat for Humanity Mexico, Tim Hanstad from Landesa and John Weyenberg with Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity that illustrated why – and how – a U.S. audience should care about global access to land. As Heather Lafferty, chair of Habitat for Humanity’s U.S. Council Advocacy Committee and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver put it at the beginning of the week, attendees were challenged to “be local leaders thinking on a global scale.”