Committee saves housing law

The Committee to Protect the Affordable Housing Law launched a grassroots campaign last year to convince Massachusetts voters to reject a proposed repeal in November's mid-term elections.

Client: The Committee to Protect the Affordable Housing Law (Boston, MA)

Agency:  Solomon McCown & Company (Boston, MA)

Campaign:  Vote “NO” on 2 Campaign  

Duration:  January – November 2, 2010

Budget:  $98,000

The Committee to Protect the Affordable Housing Law launched a grassroots campaign last year to convince Massachusetts voters to reject a proposed repeal in November's mid-term elections.

The ballot committee was formed in 2009 (as required by state law) and was comprised of more than 1,200 individuals and organizations. The nonprofit Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) served as a leading partner. Solomon McCown & Company, which has worked with CHAPA on affordable housing issues for seven years, was tapped to help develop and execute the campaign.

Strategy

“We wanted to mobilize as many people as possible on local levels,” explains Aaron Gornstein, CHAPA's executive director. “We have over 100 dailies and weeklies here, and all are very active in covering this issue. We needed a consistent message that spoke directly to the issue of why affordable housing is so important, who it serves, and how it has benefited the community.” 

The team “put a face on the law” by creating videos of people who got their houses through the law. 

“We thought it was the most compelling way for others to understand the issue,” explains Solomon McCown & Company president Ashley McCown. 

Messaging was disseminated through media relations, protectaffordablehousing.org, and social media channels. Online and TV ads ran just ahead of the vote.

Tactics: 

Twenty editorial board meetings were conducted. All media outlets were given information tailored to their communities, including fact sheets, Q&As, statistics, and names of local affordable housing residents who were willing to be interviewed.

McCown says a team of about 50 committee members helped extend conversations and counter negative comments by posting comments on media websites about every story.

Launched in June, the website includes media coverage, the videos, facts, and resources. McCown notes that showing the houses in the videos also helped dispel a myth that affordable housing is unattractive.

Videos and campaign updates were also posted on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Results

The proposed repeal was struck down by a 16% margin with 1.2 million people voting “No” on question 2.

The campaign garnered 66 editorials in 52 newspapers. Op-eds written by coalition members were placed in 47 newspapers. 

The website drew 75,000 unique visitors between June and the election. A total of 27 videos got 3,513 views across the website and YouTube.

Future

Gornstein says members of the committee are interested in continuing broad based proactive efforts to advance affordable housing. “It would involve fundraising and earned media, and we would continue with the agency,” he adds.

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