Housing advocates and activists are increasingly framing housing as a cross-cutting issue that affects and intersects with public health, educational equity, economic justice, inclusive communities, and other social justice issues. This shift in the perception holds the potential for broadening grassroots constituencies in support of housing reform—even as it comes under new threats at the national level. How can advocates push this conversation forward at the state and local levels and break through perceptual barriers at the national level?

The FrameWorks Institute is working with some of the nation’s most influential housing policy organizations to ensure that advocates have sophisticated communications research available to guide their efforts. With the leadership and generous sponsorship of Enterprise Community Partners, and additional support from the National Center for Healthy Housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Grounded Solutions Network, this project will address the critical need to build public understanding of a range of housing-related issues: why they matter, how they work, whom they affect, and what we can do to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing.

Research & Recommendations

Reframing Affordable Housing: Findings from Peer Discourse Sessions (2017). As part of a larger project in collaboration with Enterprise Community Partners that seeks to reframe affordable housing, FrameWorks researchers conducted peer discourse sessions with members of the public to explore how people think about affordable housing, why it matters, and what should be done to address this issue. The sessions were also used to test several frames currently used by the field. This report presents results from those sessions and makes framing recommendations for those communicating about affordable housing issues.  

"You Don't Have to Live Here:" Why Housing Messages Are Backfiring and 10 Things We Can Do About It (2016). Housing is the starting point for life trajectories—often determining who has access to good jobs, good food, safe parks, or effective schools. But this perspective is difficult for the public to appreciate. To advance a progressive housing agenda, advocates must first understand why current messages are failing and backfiring. FrameWorks teamed up with Enterprise Community Partners to think about how advocates’ messages affect public thinking. 

“A House, a Tent, a Box”: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Healthy Housing (2016). This study compares public and expert understandings of housing, and offers strategic guidance for how communicators can help ordinary Americans better appreciate the connections between affordability, quality, and health.

Not Telling the Whole Story: Media and Advocacy Discourse about Affordable Housing (2016). The stories Americans hear about affordable housing can create opportunities for change or impede progress in the policy arena. FrameWorks researchers conducted a systematic analysis of the frames used by the media and by influential housing reform organizations. The result is a carefully drawn map of the narratives in play—with directions for navigating it strategically.