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St. Louis and the Home Matters movement

St. Louis and the Home Matters movement

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A core ingredient in American prosperity that is often overlooked is the importance of strong homes. That’s why a new national initiative, called Home Matters, was launched on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. It’s designed to build public support for the essential role that home plays as the bedrock for thriving lives, families, and a stronger nation. And St. Louis has played a major role in its launching.

Home Matters is spearheaded by a coast-to-coast coalition of local and regional housing and community development organizations as well as national entities like National NeighborWorks Association, Citi, and Wells Fargo. That’s where St. Louis comes in.

As president and CEO of Beyond Housing in St. Louis, I run one of those local community development organizations. As board president of National NeighborWorks Association, which has been the catalyst for launching this initiative, I’ve been involved in this effort from the start.

My experience in St. Louis — where I grew up, attended college, and have worked ever since — is at the heart of this effort. That experience has taught me the crucial roles that home plays and the essential importance of greater public understanding and appreciation of those roles.

Home is at the core of all of the aspirations that we have as individuals, neighborhoods, communities — and as a nation. Home is where we as individuals dream, study, plan, and recharge for the day ahead. Home is the core building block of neighborhoods.

Strong stable homes are essential to thriving communities and local economies. Our national prosperity is dependent on the talent, drive and inspiration that strong stable homes nourish.

At Beyond Housing, we provide affordable housing and home ownership services, as well as other related support services to families, children and seniors, but our mission goes beyond housing. Home is about the life that happens in and around the house. We strengthen neighborhoods and catalyze communitywide rebuilding efforts. Our focus is on improving people’s lives in a holistic manner, and in helping entire communities become better places to live.

We understand, from our experience, the fundamental power of home. It’s a power that fuels prosperity at all levels. It’s a power that molds individual, community, and national asset-building.

That’s the fundamental point of Home Matters. Home doesn’t matter just to those who benefit directly from affordable housing; it matters to all of us who care about the future of our communities and our nation. It matters to education, because children in stable homes learn and achieve more in school. It matters to health, because healthy habits take root more easily in stable, affordable homes. It matters to public safety, because stable homes make communities safer. It matters to our economy, because strong homes are essential to a thriving, job-generating economic climate.

In “Resilience in the Face of Foreclosures,” a report of the National League of Cities, Professor Todd Swanstrom of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and James A. Brooks, program director at the league, write: “Housing policy cannot be focused only on housing production or even affordability; the desired policy outcome is building dynamic and thriving neighborhoods that attract residents and businesses.”

They recognize the inherent and multifaceted connection between housing and prosperous communities. Housing is both a catalyst for dynamic and thriving neighborhoods and a byproduct of those neighborhoods.

In effect, what they’re saying is: Home is key to dynamic and thriving neighborhoods but must be interwoven with other institutions to attract residents and businesses. What Home Matters underscores is that home is also key to the performance of those other institutions. Home is crucial to the success of our schools, our health care facilities, our businesses. Home is essential to our communities’ ability to grow jobs and to provide the public infrastructure that supports those jobs.

Home Matters has just begun. As it grows, it will involve more and more Americans, community organizations, and communities of all kinds. It will enable more and more people to share their insights at www.HomeMattersAmerica.com. It will provide a vehicle for better understanding and better appreciating the crucial roles that home plays in the prosperity that we all desire — in St. Louis and throughout the nation.

Chris Krehmeyer is president and CEO of Beyond Housing in St. Louis.

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