Proven results can help solve housing crisis

OlympianSeptember 16, 2013 

 I’ve got to admit that since carburetors and sparkplugs went the way of the LP, I’ve been pretty lost under the hood of a car. Just when did they turn the engine sideways?

Despite this, and that I’m not a mechanic, an automotive engineer or transportation professional, I nevertheless drive one of the safest, most efficient, and reliable production vehicles made.

How did I accomplish such a feat?

Well, pretty simply: I listened to what the experts recommended, and I followed their advice. Worked like a charm.

As a participating provider in the delivery of affordable housing for Thurston County, I appreciate the community’s ongoing frustration with our seeming inability to produce an inclusive means of housing that is a safe, affordable and effective option for those experiencing a housing crisis.

Like my choice of transportation, solutions to affordable housing are also about seeking expert advice, and as a community we should follow it. Unfortunately, these days find unrealistic projects, stagnant programming with mediocre outcomes and ideas in retrograde compete alongside highly successful, evidence-based programs for the same limited funds.

If we wish to solve our housing needs (and not go broke doing so) than this practice is obviously unsustainable.

Perhaps worse is the innovation that does not occur when we relentlessly rely upon yesterday’s incorrect answers to address today’s demonstrably solvable housing gaps. As an example, some of the best new thinking is in rapid-rehousing.

Two local non profits, Sidewalk and the Family Support Center use the rapid-rehousing paradigm in an exemplary manner to offer 21st century housing solutions to struggling individuals and families. Not only is this programming a win for the household involved, it is also a market-based win for the individual or business which owns the property and receives the rent check, while simultaneously eliminating a vacancy.

Inexplicably, funding for this programming is in jeopardy. From experts come bestpractices, evidence-based programming, and a pattern of successful outcomes demonstrated longitudinally over time.

The non profit builder I work for was founded by a farmer and a missionary, neither of whom were professional builders. Forty years ago they penciled out a mission with some core best practices and got underway.

By following expert advice, continually improving the product and holding annual mission reviews, we have become, over time, one of the 10 largest residential homebuilders in the country with 1,500 affiliate chapters worldwide serving over 3 million people in more than 70 countries.

We weren’t a success overnight, but we became successful because a realistic target was identified and relentlessly pursued.

The mission itself was undertaken strategically and deliberately, it was allowed to evolve as conditions dictated, while being logistically supported with a functional and forwardlooking business plan.

Much of my organization’s success is due not only to our internal practices but because of our external private-sector relationships.

Local banks like Anchor, Olympia Federal and Heritage; businesses like Roof Doctor and Premier Power; and local housing experts like Jay Goldstein and Ron Deering all help us deliver a better product because they realize that we can all accomplish more together than alone.

As efficiencies develop, the product improves, and delivery is simplified. The concept of affordable housing for all shouldn’t be seen as a social burden but as an unrealized business model with a compassionate outcome.

At the end of the day, all of this stands or falls on the strength of the participants.

Can our elected leaders look beyond parochial interests and municipal boundaries? Are our non profit service providers willing to offer new best-practice and evidencebased programming? Are we as a community ready to support expert opinion and successful outcomes?

Housing need is not an Olympia issue or a Thurston County issue, it is a regional and national humanitarian concern. We should be smart enough to treat it as such.

Curt D. Andino is the Executive Director of South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity and a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors.

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