Nine large private foundations have formed a funding collaborative aimed at catalyzing systemic change to address the shortage of safe, stable, and affordable rental housing nationwide.
Launched by the Melville Charitable Trust and the Annie E. Casey, Gates, Hilton, Ford, MacArthur, JPB, Kresge, and Oak foundations, Funders for Housing and Opportunity will support policies and programs aimed at ensuring that individuals and families who spend more than half of their income on rent — or who are unhoused — are able to afford safe, stable rental housing in a thriving community. While the nine foundations collectively invested more than $65 million in domestic housing-related activities in 2017, the new collaborative will help them align their strategies, leverage their funds, and extend their reach beyond what they could support individually.
In conjunction with the launch, the collaborative also announced grants totaling $4.9 million over three years to four organizations working to address housing insecurity and its impacts. Recipients are the Center for Community Change (Washington, D.C.), which was awarded $750,000 in support of its Housing Trust Fund Project, an initiative to boost state and local revenues earmarked for affordable housing, support resident leadership, and create a national movement to address unmet housing needs; the National Housing Trust and Enterprise Community Partners, which will receive $1.05 million to lead a community development coalition that elevates the voices of residents with respect to housing issues; the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which was awarded $2.7 million to lead — in partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children's Health Watch, Make Room, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness — a campaign to advance affordable housing solutions for the lowest-income people; and the Partnership for Children & Youth, which will receive $400,000 to provide training, coaching, and capacity-building support to housing developments, with the goal of improving children's health and wellness, academic achievement, and family economic and housing stability.
According to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there isn't a single state in the country where a person earning the minimum wage and working forty hours per week can afford to rent a basic two-bedroom apartment.
"Housing is much more than a roof over our heads — it is a basic human need and it bolsters entire communities," said Susan Thomas, senior program officer at the Melville Charitable Trust and chair of the collaborative. "When homes are decent, stable, and affordable, kids do better in school, seniors are healthier longer and more socially connected, workers are more productive, and families have more disposable income to boost our local economies. For this reason, we're bridging across fields to make housing opportunity a shared priority."
"Any one foundation, working alone, can have only limited impact given the scale of the problem," said Jeanne Fekade-Sellassie, project director of Funders for Housing and Opportunity. "Too many lower- and middle-income families struggle to afford each month's rent. We need a monumental shift in how rental housing security and its impacts are addressed at the national level. By working together, Funders for Housing and Opportunity and our partners can be a powerful force for change."