Microblog #126: A “Values” Proposition

293 Words

We love data, but could there be better places to start when promoting affordable housing?

Like many other issues, arguments for housing affordability tend to follow the “problem, policy solution” formula. Our work at HousingForward Virginia is largely focused on defining those problems and evaluating the policy solutions using the best data available.

However, according to a recent article from Shelterforce, leading with facts and data may not be the strongest argument. A study from Lake Research Partners (LRP) found that “persuadables,” or audience members who are equally influenced by both sides of an argument, responded better to messaging that led with shared values rather than facts.

This supports the widely held hypothesis of values-based messaging— something we promote in our Messaging and Overcoming NIMBY work. But what’s more, the LRP study also found that persuadables responded better when racial justice was explicitly mentioned as one of those shared values. That’s in line with the findings of Demos’s 2018 Race Class Narrative project.

One thing housers may find surprising in the LRP study is that the words “affordable” and “affordability” actually didn’t garner strong, positive responses from persuadables. They theorize that it’s not, as some have suggested, because “affordable housing” has racial connotations. LRP says it’s actually because framing housing as an economic issue triggers individualistic, commodity-based thinking, which is often antithetical to inspiring collective action. It’s much more productive, the study says, to frame housing as a human need and connect it to health and well-being.

This summer’s combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests has drawn critical attention to the intersection of public health and racial justice. By starting with those conversations, advocates may be able to generate more intense support for good quality, affordable housing

In the near future, look for an update to our Messaging Toolkit to expand on these discussions.

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