Interview by Lyla Boyajian with audio editing by Axel Stewart
  • brick building under construction in Dover NH

    The old Strafford County Courthouse, which was abandoned and lying vacant, was recently purchased by a local developer, Chinburg Group. Through an agreement with the city and using state tax incentives, the courthouse will become a mixed-income housing project with twelve affordable units and retail on the ground floor.

Lyla Boyajian, Public Policy Fellow, met Ryan Pope, Housing Navigator for the City of Dover, NH, at Flight Coffee in Dover for a discussion on community engagement and its role in housing policy development. Ryan comes from a background of banking and housing advocacy, and his work now includes rewriting of the housing pillar of the vision chapter of Dover’s Master Plan and revisiting their zoning ordinances.

In our conversation, Ryan explains his role as “letting people decide what the need is themselves, and then in the background doing a lot of research in ordinances around the country with successful practices, ranging from addressing homeless concerns to all the way to constructing homes affordably for sale, so that people can start building their own wealth by owning a home.”

He discusses challenges in working with vulnerable populations: “It’s hard work, it’s a hard kind of line to be in to talk to that many people and be that close to someone else’s hardship without taking a little bit of it on yourself . . . we can do better”; and his advice for those just starting this work: “don’t expect that you can change the world on your own. Because in all honesty you shouldn’t. It should be a community effort.”

Listen to the interview here.

I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!