CLPHA’s Affordable Housing & Education Summit Continues to Strengthen Partnerships

With 120 attendees working to engage new ideas and develop innovative practices to better connect housing and education systems, CLPHA’s second annual Affordable Housing & Education Summit was an enormous success. Part of CLPHA’s ongoing commitment to the Systems Alignment initiative, the Summit shared the progress CLPHA has achieved since last year’s Summit, covered new ground and explored strategies that will streamline the ways housing and education experts work together and allow us to improve outcomes for housing residents and kids in school. The Summit was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Google Fiber, and the broader initiative is generously supported by the Gates Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Summit attendees, including housing advocates, education experts, foundation represenatives, congressional staff, federal agency officials—including Health & Human Services, USDA, HUD, and Department of Education—and national nonprofits enthusiastically jumped into working sessions and joined lively discussions on various ways the housing industry can better connect through valuable resources, effective people and innovative ideas. The meeting topics ranged from defining and sharing examples of anchor institutions assisting in efforts to better intersect housing and education to identifying components for sustaining successful partnerships that connect education and housing experts. Participants learned about the future of the ConnectHome program—a HUD initiative in which Google Fiber has also been involved —and examined ways that data sharing can help us connect and align systems in our efforts to increase opportunities for low-income children. 

Throughout the two days, the Summit featured spotlights on innovative on-the-ground practices happening around the country. HUD Secretary Julián Castro kicked off his keynote speech by pointing out that we are currently at a nexus between housing opportunities and educational opportunities, and that we are coming together at a time of extraordinary change. “All of us here are here today because we believe that affordable housing and strong communities need to be the foundation of this work,” Castro said. “It’s local leaders like you, in our nation’s public housing authorities, and in classrooms, in nonprofits, that are on the front lines of this important work. As a former mayor I know that the most effective progress often starts at the community level. Folks like you see the challenges first and you often know the best solutions.”

Secretary Castro gave a nod to educators and public housing authorities in the communities of Vancouver, Washington; Akron, Ohio and New Haven, Connecticut, saying, “Whether it’s early childhood education, or lowering the dropout rate, or ensuring that young girls and boys of color have the same opportunity as everyone else, you also are doing fantastic work across this country.”

“Now there are some folks out there who may ask, ‘Well, what are these housing people going to do to improve schools?’ And the answer, as you know, is to partner effectively with the education system. We know our children’s days don’t start and end when the school bell rings. More than 90 percent of their lives are spent outside the classroom, and that directly impacts how they do inside the classroom.”

James Cole, Jr., General Counsel, Delegated the Duties of Deputy of Education, focused his keynote speech on the Obama Administration’s My Brother’s Keeper program and the importance of looking out for those around us, especially needy children in low-income families. He emphasized, “We err profoundly when we try to pretend that somehow we are not responsible for our brothers and our sisters.” Cole discussed his difficult, poor upbringing on the South Side of Chicago and how his 10th grade English teacher looked out for him, observing that he achieved his dreams to succeed and earned his role serving the President “because someone made the choice to be my keeper.”

Cole linked the importance of looking out for one another to the vital work that the Summit participants undertake in looking out for low-income residents and students.

“We know that housing instability causes stress and worry not only for parents, but for students as well, who don’t have support systems to rely on, or who don’t know where to turn for necessary services. All these factors can undermine academic success, and they are all reasons why we need the right people, people like you sitting in this room, working together to continue to build those support systems and to make those connections between home and school.”

Cole also praised the Tacoma Housing Authority for their partnership with McCarver Elementary School that provides housing vouchers in exchange for more family involvement in school. This initiative has been a long-standing example of how such partnerships can create effective and lasting change for low-income children and families. An independent report found that the annual turnover rate—the number of students that left the school—declined from 114 percent to 74 percent after the third year. In addition to the reduced turnover, reading scores increased and the gains were sustained.

The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago shared how their partnership formed so the university could serve as an anchor institution and help CHA analyze data to further the connection between housing and education. The panelists described how their relationship is a mutually beneficial one, with CHA receiving specialized assistance to answer specific research questions that arise and Chapin Hall learning more about low-income children in Chicago. A number of participants spoke with the research team from Chapin Hall and were eager to replicate their research model.

On a separate panel, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) discussed their partnership with the School Construction Fund, as they have begun the groundwork to open a community school that targets children housed by PHA. The panelists shared the history of the neighborhood, how they worked to get union and city leadership buy-in for the initiative, and their timeline for opening the school. This emerging and promising model embodies what can be achieved when the housing and education sectors form partnerships.

Internet connectivity has also proven to be an innovative component for initiatives for low-income communities. CLPHA believes being connected is crucial to closing the achievement gap and helping low-income individuals and families succeed in today’s world. One panel featured updates on HUD’s ConnectHome initiative, of which many CLPHA members are chosen communities. Summit participants heard from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research regarding data they have been collecting on ConnectHome and how the needs of HUD-assisted households mirror that of non-assisted households. Google Fiber discussed their efforts to provide fast internet speeds at no cost to housing authorities and how they hope to expand in the future, as well as highlighting how digital literacy and ways to earn devices have been successful in many communities.

Reflective of the field’s growing recognition of the importance of data sharing, this topic came up in many of the Summit’s breakout sessions, as well as planned panels. University of Pennsylvania Professor of Social Policy and Co-Principal Investigator of the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy Project Dennis Culhane presented his work on how to intersect administrative data. Culhane showed the cost-benefits of merging different data systems and the improvements to outcomes. His work uses anonymously-aggregated data and is mostly on the county level. For example, in Philadelphia, the city has been able to reduce costs by sharing administrative information.

The Summit also covered data sharing on the local level between housing organizations and their education partners. CLPHA unveiled a preliminary data sharing agreement template, which lays out a legal document for partners to use as a starting point for sharing data for improving life outcomes. The template eliminates the time and resources it can take to create such an agreement, while also providing examples and resources for partners to determine why they wish to share data and what data they wish to share. This tool has received overwhelming support from communities who wish to engage in data sharing. CLPHA has had a number of progressive discussions with federal partners on their willingness to officially endorse the template. We are currently seeking feedback on the template, and Summit participants had the first opportunity to provide input during the event.

CLPHA would like to thank all the Summit attendees for participating in the meetings and for bringing inspiring ideas to all of our discussions and working sessions. As always, we encourage you to provide any feedback on the meeting and let us know how we can improve for next year. You can view the parts of the Summit that we recorded, including our keynote speakers, here.