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Advocacy in Action: Understanding the Influence of Advocacy Organizations on Local Affordable Housing Policy in the U.S.


Affordable housing competes with many other municipal priorities. This work seeks to explain the variation in support for affordable housing among U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more. This research employs mixed-methods to address two complementary research questions: 1) using multivariate statistical analysis, this research investigates political explanations for the level of city expenditures on housing and community development with a particular interest in the influence of housing advocacy organizations (AOs); 2) through a follow-up case study, this research explores how AOs exert influence on planning for affordable housing in four cities in Los Angeles County. Data for the model were gathered from secondary sources, including the U.S. Census and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Data for the case study were collected from interviews with AO leaders and city officials, AO documents and websites, and each case city’s housing element. Among other results, the analysis indicates that, on average, the age of local AOs has a statistically significant, positive association with housing and community development expenditures in a given city. The financial strength of local organizations also has a statistically significant, positive association with housing and community expenditures in a given city. Finally, the age of the AOs in a given city’s surrounding county has a statistically significant, negative association with local housing and community development expenditures. Furthermore, the findings of the case study suggest that the political opportunity AOs perceive plays a role in their approach toward the affordable housing policy issue. The strategies AOs employ, on the other hand, are chosen based on the resources of the given group. That is, this qualitative analysis found that AOs in the case study cities with more resources (Long Beach and Los Angeles) engage in both insider and outsider strategic actions (tactics) to achieve influence. Conversely, AOs in the case study cities with less resources (Pasadena and Pomona) favored using insider strategic actions to achieve influence.

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