Fellow Reflection: Shima A. Robinson

Written by Affordable Housing Solutions Lab Fellow, Shima A. Robinson

The Fellowship Program brings together experiential partners, researchers, practitioners, housing providers, policymakers, planners and housing advocates to collaborate over a 6-month term. During this time, Fellows work together to identify and explore innovative affordable housing solutions and to provide the lab direction with regard to community learning activities. These blog posts will describe how each of the Fellows became interested in housing and why they think housing is important.

1. How did you come to be involved in the field of housing? 

I was brought onto the board of a housing organization called House Next Door that provides supportive housing for adults living with mental illness in 2013. This began my journey to learning about the many ways in which housing is made available and made accessible through community coordination with public service organizations and nonprofit organizations. I am still a member of the HNDS Board of Directors. I am also a former resident of their housing program. I know first-hand from lived experience of houselessness the issues and barriers that exist or can arise for folks who face challenges that are under-considered or lack full support of the public sector.

2. Why is housing important?

Of course, housing is important because it is necessary for thriving in our current society and it is a human right. Affordable housing is key because we are seeing a growing wage gap along many matrices: between the rich and the poor, men and non-men, and along racial lines as well. The quality and moreover accessibility (which is a determinant of quality) of housing being built is a measure of the success of our society. It is an issue that implicates all levels of government and affects the lives of all citizens. Quality of housing, taken holistically, is the measure of a society’s means, moral identity, integrity, and it’s character.

3. In your opinion what is innovative when it comes to affordable housing?

Affordable housing that is built and maintained as per the needs of its tenants or owners is key when it comes to innovation. People have variable needs, and different ideas of comfort. The idea of affordable housing should not be dominated by conceptions of austerity and the “bottom line”, but rather, should be about fulfilling the requirements for the maintenance of a home for a person. A home is more than housing, it is the place of repose, generative of energy, meaning and sense of worth for its occupant. This challenge is structural but also has to do with the financial planning pertaining to the maintenance of affordable housing. New policy, new rules about how housing is secured and remains so is much needed to address chronic issues of unaffordability which is about more than money. It is about suitability of arrangements for the folks who are in most need. Suitability is determined by understanding their challenges and barriers that exist in their lives. It is a deeply sociologically informed approach, which take into account the identities of people who need affordable housing initiatives, that will bring about permanent success for supportive housing initiatives.

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