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Aligning Housing and Education: CLPHA’s 2nd Annual Affordable Housing & Education Summit

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Aligning Housing and Education: CLPHA’s 2nd Annual Affordable Housing & Education Summit

Young children wait in line in a parking lot with a school bus in the background.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro emphasized the importance of housing-education partnerships at the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities Affordable Housing & Education Summit, which was held in May.

In May 2016, more than 100 leaders in housing and education convened for the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) Affordable Housing & Education Summit. The Summit built on a growing movement to align housing and education programs and policies at the local, state, and federal levels to best support people’s development and opportunities. Participants emphasized how housing and education, along with other factors such as health, play related and complementary roles in children’s lives; for instance, homelessness prevention can contribute to educational success. As HUD Secretary Julián Castro commented, “This work is fundamentally about people.”

Secretary Castro, one of the Summit’s keynote speakers, emphasized the importance of housing-education partnerships and described three principles for HUD’s work. First, HUD must expand partnerships at all levels — for instance, HUD’s new National Partnership on Housing and Education with the Gates Foundation Pacific Northwest Initiative and the MacArthur Foundation will lift up emerging strategies and best practices from communities. Second, federal agencies must collaborate more, including breaking down bureaucratic barriers. Third, those working in this space should explore ways to share data to better measure results.

Developing Partnerships

At the start of the Summit, Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, asked, “How can we structure and sustain housing and school partnerships?” Much of the Summit was dedicated to exploring this question. Across areas of overlap, such as homelessness, early childhood, and time out of school, participants considered better ways for housing and education organizations to work together at all levels.

Erik Soliván of the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Paul Vallas of the School Construction Fund discussed a new example of cross-system collaboration, the 10-phase plan to redevelop the Sharswood neighborhood of Philadelphia. The plan includes more than 1,000 units of new mixed-income housing, replacing all the affordable units from the demolished public housing on the site and adding market-rate units as well. The plan also includes a new community school that will provide students from pre-K to grade 12 with personalized educational programs and applied learning in real-world contexts. The plan envisions a high-quality school that includes a comprehensive educational program with accelerated enrichment, which will provide deep and continuous relationships with parents and the community, give families with means a reason to stay, and attract other families to the area.

One key area for partnerships is technology and access to the Internet. Calvin Johnson of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research and Google Fiber’s Erica Swanson presented on the ConnectHome initiative, a public-private collaboration aimed at narrowing the digital divide among HUD-assisted families with school-age children. As Johnson discussed, too many HUD-assisted families lack access to computers and the Internet despite the importance of connectivity for education, jobs, and health. Swanson emphasized how local leadership and broad coalitions with diverse stakeholders and partners are essential to making progress in this area.

Data, Metrics, and Research

The Summit also considered data sharing as a foundation and focus for housing-education partnerships. Professor Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania — co-leader of Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy, a professional network of states, counties, cities, and academic partners working to integrate data and make decisions — discussed the mechanics and importance of data-sharing agreements. Culhane demonstrated, for instance, how integrated administrative data from a range of sources such as jails and psychiatric hospitals showed that providing housing for people experiencing homelessness saved governments tens of thousands of dollars per person housed each year.

Anchor institutions can serve as essential partners in this work. Cassandra Brooks of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Denali Dasgupta and Nick Mader of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago described their organizations’ joint research partnership aimed at improving CHA residents’ quality of life, including educational achievement. Chapin Hall acts as a clearinghouse, linking CHA data with other data sets such as school and child welfare, and putting that data in context to inform the design of interventions to support youth. CHA and Chapin Hall learned, for instance, that English language learners are concentrated in only a handful of CHA developments, enabling CHA to better direct their services and understand the students they support. CHA has also taken advantage of this data to examine the social and behavioral causes of school absenteeism among assisted residents as well as opportunities for collaboration with Chicago Public Schools.

Housing and Education Partnerships Moving Forward

Fellow keynote speaker James Cole, Jr., general counsel delegated the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Education, emphasized the urgent need for cooperative action. As Cole commented, “[T]he fact remains that the odds are still stacked against too many of our young people, especially in urban areas.” Cole described the importance of partnerships among school systems, housing, and philanthropy and identified places with promising school-housing collaborations such as Tacoma, Washington, and Boulder, Colorado. “These models,” noted Cole, “began as bold ideas that were acted upon.”

The Affordable Housing & Education Summit itself is one example of emerging housing-school initiatives. Kollin Min, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, described three indicators of progress since last year’s inaugural Summit: growing interest on housing-school partnerships from philanthropy, increasing federal interest and cooperation, and broader participation from community groups. As CLPHA executive director Sunia Zaterman commented, “This is the beginning of a beautiful thing.”