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How Rental Housing Can Support Meaningful Civic Engagement

April 16, 2024

staff with voter registration station

At Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), we understand that stable, affordable housing is foundational for a family to achieve long term stability, pursue career and education goals, and achieve economic mobility. We also believe rental housing is an underutilized platform to help families with low and moderate incomes exercise their civic power.

Why focus on renters?

Renters are historically underrepresented in our nation’s electoral system: according to a 2022 study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), just 37% of eligible renters cast their ballots compared to 58% of eligible homeowners. This disparity increases across income levels: 33% of eligible voters with household incomes below $20,000 voted in the 2022 midterm elections versus 67% of eligible voters with household incomes above $100,000. This gap has only grown since the 2018 midterm elections.

Through our relationships with residents in our communities, we understand that voter participation is less a result of personal choices but rather a lack of systems and supports to help voters exercise their rights. As a housing provider committed to equity, POAH is dedicated to removing barriers to full participation in our democracy. We do this, in part, by investing in voter registration, education and mobilization.

As a housing provider, we have several regular points of contact with residents. We leverage these moments to make voter registration easy and accessible. One example of this is when a resident is moving into one of our communities. Their address just changed, and they are already completing paperwork with our property management team. By incorporating a simple voter registration address update form into their move-in paperwork, we’re ensuring that the resident has an opportunity to update their registration on the spot, if they choose. This approach is much like how eligible voters can register when they apply for a license at their local Registry of Motor Vehicles. Another key point of contact is when a member of a POAH household turns 18. Our property management team is required to update their status on the lease, presenting a natural opportunity to encourage the newly eligible resident to register to vote by providing the form and/or QR code to online registration. We often do this as a friendly birthday message, adding warmth and celebration to an otherwise administrative task.

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