Home is the center of our lives, a basic necessity. If you already have secure housing, this may not be top of mind, but many San Antonians are struggling to even find a place to call home. 

Safe, stable housing is the foundation of economic mobility – something that benefits us all. The San Antonio Area Foundation’s Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) initiative envisions neighborhoods in our region that are safe, affordable and accessible for all of us as we age. As the San Antonio area continues to grow, finding a home that’s affordable becomes a real challenge.

April is National Fair Housing Month, a time when we celebrate the law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, making discrimination in housing transactions unlawful. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of race, color national origin, religion, gender, disability and familial status.

Stereotypes and stigmas come to mind when we hear the term “affordable housing,” which for many brings to mind low-income families receiving government assistance. But it also includes rent and mortgages for teachers, child-care providers, hospitality workers, college students and retirees on fixed incomes. Affordable simply means that there is money left over at the end of the month after covering rent or mortgage to pay for groceries, prescriptions and other basic necessities.

Prior to working at the Area Foundation, I was on that list as well. As a professional classical musician, I needed affordable housing options at different times in my life. While searching for a home in Seattle, I accidentally discovered house sharing, an arrangement where two unrelated people share a home. Often the renter pays reduced rent in exchange for agreed upon chores, like cutting the lawn and taking out the trash.  

For me, the benefits of house sharing were innumerable. Yes, I had an affordable place to call home, but I also gained a friend and mentor who inspired me with her zest for life.  Fast forward six years, and I now find myself telling the story of my house mate (Virginia) in hope that other older adults might consider this unique housing arrangement.

SALSA is currently collaborating with the City of San Antonio (CoSA) to campaign for affordable housing solutions, targeting the intergenerational pairing of older adult homeowners and graduate student renters. SALSA also teamed up with the CoSA’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department to convene and facilitate the first working group of San Antonio Reframing Housing Advocates – sparking the flames of a long-term social change endeavor designed to improve the public’s understanding of what housing affordability means.

A group of 27 housing professionals representing nonprofits and government agencies from across the housing sector joined for in-depth training with the FrameWorks Institute to learn how to reframe messaging around housing affordability in San Antonio.

The Reframing Housing cohort has adopted communication strategies to implement within their individual organizations and through coordinated public information efforts throughout the coming year. By participating in these uniquely collaborative cross-sector reframing conversations, SALSA continues to advocate for accessible, safe, and affordable housing for our older adults and people with disabilities.  

Sarah Davis is the San Antonio Area Foundation’s SALSA AmeriCorps VISTA Program Director.