The Building Blocks

Building Blocks icon

In this section:

Strategies for Action


Set your result

  • Define the results you would like a funding change to accomplish. The Center for Community Investment’s Defining a Shared Priority: An Introduction can help you do this.
  • Define the specific type of funding you would like to change or amend, such as direct payments, tax credits, bond authorizations, etc.

Assess existing conditions

  • Begin by reviewing city funding sources or identifying a knowledgeable local person (legislative aide, current or former city staffer or elected official, city union reps, community advocate or leader) who can share the current funding streams. For a list of potential funding sources check out the Local Housing Solutions funding guide.
  • If you are trying to get a new budget allocation, you will likely need to work through a legislative process. Use the resources in the legislation building block to guide your planning. If you will need to pass a ballot measure, make sure to research the type of funding strategy that can be implemented to achieve your result and will attract the votes you need.
  • If you want to reallocate or redirect an existing funding source, meet with the department, agency, or organizational staff responsible for the funding in question to understand how the funding is allocated and disbursed, whether it’s restricted or unrestricted (unrestricted funding is generally easier to redirect than restricted funding), what other constraints it has, and how to make a change. In addition to understanding how the funding works, this is an opportunity to feel out whether staff would also like to see a change. Some questions to ask:
    • Is this a federal, state, tribal, or local funding source?
    • How and when is this funding allocated?
    • What are some of the projects and programs this funding is used for?
    • What are some of the limitations of this resource?
    • Lay out the challenges you are seeing and ask: What are your feelings or experiences with these issues?
    • How is this resource currently leveraged with other sources of public or private funding to achieve our result? Is there an opportunity for better alignment or leverage?
    • What would it take to address these issues? Will it require a policy change?
    • Who is responsible for making the change?
    • Would your department/agency/organization be willing to support this change?
  • Meet with the people who are affected by or work with this funding stream to understand their experiences with how it is being used. This information will be helpful when you need to build a case for change. Some questions to ask:
    • Have you used or tried to use this funding?
    • What have you found most useful about it?
    • What have you found most challenging?
    • What kind of changes would address the challenges you see?
    • Would you like to be involved in making changes?

Research new ideas or research the process to make change

The above conversations may generate enough information to make good decisions about what changes are needed. But if the information is insufficient, you can dig deeper.

Researching new ideas

  • Reach out to colleagues, partners, and experts to draw up a list of other communities with similar programs. Remember that if the program stems from a federal, state or tribal initiative, there will likely be similar funding streams in similar communities.
  • Review case studies. A few great resources are Local Housing Solutions, Shelterforce, Next City, City Lab.
  • Interview local leaders or researchers and review relevant articles and documents to understand what it will take to succeed in making your change.

Hot Tip

Though model programs and best practices can give you ideas and show local officials what’s possible, they don’t always translate well across political, legal, and cultural contexts, so you need to pick apart the strategies you like to understand what will and will not work in your context.

Researching the process

  • Use your interviews to identify opportunities to make change, for example, through the city’s existing budgeting process, CDBG allocations, HUD consolidated plans, etc.
  • Map the timelines for each of the budgeting processes you care about. Every jurisdiction uses specific timelines for budgeting approvals.
  • Identify the process used to amend or adopt new budget line items.

Analyze the Equity Impacts

  • If you are not already working with or part of groups representing impacted residents:
    • Meet with community partners, local leaders, and residents to talk about potential strategies and their unintended consequences. Make sure you analyze how this change will potentially benefit or harm people and communities that already bear the brunt of inequitable policies, including disinvested neighborhoods, communities of color, and immigrant communities.
    • If possible, get affirmative consent from community partners, local leaders, and residents to pursue your strategy. Simply presenting information does not mean you’ve gotten their agreement.
  • Analyze how other groups may benefit or be harmed by the change you seek. If they are not already part of the process, reach out to include them in your discussions.

Name the change you would like to see

In 1-3 sentences, describe the funding change you seek.