How hard is it to afford your own home? Do you have to be rich? A new EDC project is helping students in Massachusetts understand the costs of owning a home and brainstorm ways that communities can make it possible for more low-income families. Students apply what they’ve learned by developing plans for their communities to offer more options for lower-income residents. The combined instruction-community service project was so successful in five high schools that additional schools have adopted it this year.
The topics hit home in Massachusetts, the third least-affordable market for renters in the United States and the only state in the nation to have lost population two years in a row, fueled in part by lack of affordable housing.
With funding from the Bank of America and Eastern Bank, EDC and the Massachusetts-based Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association created Understanding Affordable Housing Through Service-Learning. Students use the book to explore political, legal, and social factors contributing to the current shortage of affordable housing, and present strategies for improving the situation. A teachers guide suggests student activities and contains a presentation depicting affordable housing developments throughout Massachusetts.
Maureen Binienda, a coordinator in Worcester, Massachusetts, praised the program, which had her students working with a nonprofit housing developer. She says the experience had a powerful impact on the students, three of whom looked into affordable housing options for their own families. She plans to do a yearlong theme on affordable housing next year. “We are planning a ‘how to buy a home’ class and similar trainings integrated into our academics for next year,” says Binienda. “This project has opened up so many wonderful opportunities for us.”
In other communities, students hosted affordable housing workshops and created brochures for local housing agencies. In some areas, local organizations visit the school and provide opportunities for community service.
Originally published on January 1, 2007