Letter from the Chair
All roads truly do lead to home...
Dear Division Members,
I consider it a great honor and a unique opportunity to serve the Housing and Community Development Division as your Division Chair for the next two years. “May you live in interesting times,” is an expression that has never seemed more poignant or polysemic, and like many of you I see the events unfolding before us as a moment that carries great responsibility, requires sober stewardship, and calls for leadership by example.
The crisis of housing affordability and the opportunity to expand the APA’s role in creating effective solutions to that crisis are what drew me to this position. That has not changed, but now there is a new crisis before us; how this pandemic will affect the lack of affordable housing or how months and years of social distancing and self-quarantines will impact our very notion of ‘community’ seem unimaginable.
But as planners, our role in times of crisis is to do just that: imagine the unimaginable and to lead the discussions that will ensure our towns and cities, housing and communities, become more sustainable, more equitable, and more resilient as a result of our contributions and despite these events. As our new Executive Team settles in over the next couple of weeks, we will seek the help of our fellow division members who are willing to contribute their time, energies, and ideas to focus on four specific areas:
- Member Enrollment — Ironically, despite the urgent nature of the current housing crisis and the one on the horizon, not to mention the importance of community development in all of our towns and cities, our division has one of the lowest active memberships. We need your help in growing our membership ranks with regular contributors to our newsletter, APA Learn offerings, and NPC panel proposals.
- Planning Home — This is one of the most important policy initiatives but forth by the APA in a very long time, and rightly the APA is looking for various avenues and vehicles by which to continue the conversation and take action around the six guiding principles that make up the backbone of this document. As housing policy experts and community development frontline practitioners, we should be working to identify and develop the tools your communities and colleagues need—whether it is case studies, guidelines, policy briefings, research, or changes to legislation—to support their efforts in addressing the housing affordability crisis, and to navigate this new crisis as it unfolds around us.
- Policy and Advocacy — With the recent introduction of Planning Home and the APA’s Housing Policy Guide, there is a clear focus on housing issues by APA staff and leadership; as H&CD members we can and should be contributing our collective experience and expertise in support of these efforts and assume a more active role in setting the agenda for future topics presented, the training provided, and the issues addressed during the Planner’s Day on Capitol Hill.
- Mentorship & Development — For the past two years our division has collaborated with other Divisions to facilitate the APA Student Design Competition. This is a brilliant and inspiring endeavor that has asked the brightest and newest members of our profession to tackle new challenges and has brought them into the spotlight at our annual conference each year. It also illustrates, however, that our division needs to do much more to involve students, recent graduates, and young professionals by establishing opportunities for mentorship in housing and community development, and to further develop the skills and capabilities of the next generation of housing planners.
There is much work to be done in the year ahead, fellow housers. Communities have never been more important, and the places we live have never been more front of mind. To misappropriate another expression: all roads truly do lead to home.
Brian Loughlin, APA AIA