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By Tara Barauskas

The New Year is a time for self-reflection and a good time to consider what we can improve not just as individuals, but as a Santa Monica community. One of the most persistent problems in our city has been the lack of affordable housing. There is a great need—and opportunity—for us to tackle this issue with compassion and consideration. Here are some simple things that anyone can resolve to do — even just once — in the New Year.

1. Learn About Affordable Housing

While you might not have time to become an expert, engaging on this crucial issue helps ensure that discussion about affordable housing is grounded in facts. Reading periodicals like the Santa Monica Daily Press (see, you’re already making headway), LA Curbed, and the Los Angeles Times is a good way to get a background understanding of this complicated issue. Attending workshops, open houses, and panel discussions here in Santa Monica is a great way to hear how our city can do better — from researchers who are dedicated to this issue and the very people who manage and create affordable housing. You might be surprised to find out that there is already affordable housing close to where you live!

2. Tell Our City You Support Affordable Housing

It only takes 10 minutes to look up a number, punch it in, and tell our city councilmembers that you support having affordable housing in your neighborhood. Or, if you’re not much of a talker, you can send an email. You can simply say that you support keeping Santa Monica inclusive and diverse, and that you want working families, senior citizens, and disabled residents to feel at home and comfortable in our city. Telling your representatives that you support adding and expanding affordable housing where you live makes a big difference in ensuring that affordable housing providers and developers can complete projects that bring homes to our community. Finding out when affordable housing projects are being considered and supporting them is key to helping ensure that our city lives out our values.

3. Talk to Your Friends and Family

Many people do not know much about how affordable housing looks, works, and benefits communities. Engaging with your friends and loved ones on the subject of affordable housing is a simple way to bring another ally to the table and another voice that can raise awareness of this critical issue. If talking isn’t enough, sometimes bringing your loved ones to an event, like an open house or forum hosted by affordable housing providers, can help shed light on the ways that affordable housing helps cities be more sustainable, safe, and inclusive.

Focusing the conversation on people when you talk about affordable housing helps to reframe the conversation. Affordable housing means rent costs that are affordable relative to peoples’ incomes. These are the people that work in schools, look after your children, serve you coffee or meals, or work in government or healthcare. These are people who should be able to live near where they work instead of commuting multiple hours a day to a job that barely makes ends meet.

4. Get Involved

If you’re ready to take on a more active role advocating for affordable housing, then consider joining Santa Monica’s Homeless Steering Committee as a volunteer, or other neighborhood organizations that look at how our city provides housing and related services. Volunteering at events, attending community meetings as a resident who supports housing, and being out in the community supporting housing in other ways can make a huge difference in how our city handles adding affordable homes.

Whatever 2020 has in store for Santa Monica, I hope that our community members continue to work together to do what we can to ensure that our city lives out our progressive values by supporting affordable housing. These four suggestions on how to support affordable housing — which makes our city more sustainable, inclusive, and vibrant — all require different levels of engagement, but each are attainable for anyone who cares about this issue. So in 2020, let’s resolve to advocate for affordable housing so working families of modest means can have the opportunity to build a brighter future.

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