Interfaith Group Champions Affordable Housing

August 12, 2000

Source: The Boston Globe

On August 12, 2000, The Boston Globe reported that with "fervent dedication to a very urgent cause, the thousands of members" of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization "won a significant victory, persuading the Legislature to create a $100 million trust fund to build affordable housing over five years. Granted, it was less than they sought. And they failed to win significant increases in other housing accounts. But the symbolic victory, in a year that ended up a win-some, lose-some session for housing, went to the organization." Organization leader Fran Early said that "it's a really significant breakthrough. It's a small dent in terms of addressing the needs, but the most significant thing is that the public's attention to the affordable housing crisis is dramatically broadened." The group's effectiveness may be a result of the way in which it operates. "With large, demonstrative crowds, it forced politicians to the table in a tone that sometimes seemed to shame them into joining the cause. A robust mix of races, religions, ethnicities, and communities, the organization's membership runs the gamut from poor to rich. As such, it put a universal face on an issue that in the past was espoused largely by advocacy groups speaking for the poorest of the poor." Early explained, "We pick issues that most people can agree on and go about trying to find what's doable that will make a significant difference. That's countercultural. Most times, people sit around deciding what the right answer is and lining people up to march around toward it."

"State representatives heard a lot more from those folks about housing this year than they have in the past 10 years, really," said Thomas Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. "That translates into elected officials making it a priority."

See also: Interfaith, Civic