Published June 14th, 2019 at 6:00 AM
Local leaders cannot rely solely on facts and figures to energize the community around solving the affordable housing problem, a national community-building expert told a Johnson County audience this week.
“Data’s important, but it doesn’t win the day,” said Tiffany Manuel, president and CEO of TheCaseMade. “As soon as we learn how to present that data, the better.”
The key, she said, is telling stories using the data. Personal stories make the problem more relatable to the community as a whole, she said.
Manuel was the keynote speaker at this year’s Human Service Summit put on by United Community Services of Johnson County. The theme of the event was “Health Starts at Home,” which highlighted the link between quality, affordable housing and health.
The summit, which drew government leaders, elected officials, and social service professionals, also included a panel that included Tom Herzog, chief operating officer of Netsmart, a healthcare software company headquartered in Overland Park, and Kirk McClure, professor of urban planning at the University of Kansas.
Manuel said affordable housing advocates have at least cleared one hurdle.
“The good news is we do not have an awareness problem,” she said. “Who’s amused about the fact that housing is incredibly expensive today, no matter where you live in the country?”
Business definitely has a role to play in that discussion, Herzog said. Corporate leaders must be interested in more than just growing their businesses. Another focus, he said, should be “what things can we do as a business to help shape needs within our community?” A mix of residential options is something businesses should consider, he said.
The issue is not the amount of homes available in the area, McClure said, but rather making use of the existing housing stock.
“The problem isn’t going to be resolved by adding more units,” he said. “It’s helping, through all these supportive services, people to consume the units that we have now.”
— Peter Loganbill is a Kansas City PBS summer intern