Efforts in 2017 supported by the Meyer Memorial Trust have helped drive advocacy, policy, and systems change in Oregon, an evaluation commissioned by the foundation finds.
Based on a review of grantees' report documents, interviews with key partners involved in affordable housing work, and discussions with Meyer staff, the report, Affordable Housing Initiative: Year Three Evaluation: Advocacy, Policy & Systems Change (14 pages, PDF), examined the effectiveness, results, limitations, and lessons learned from the grants awarded through the foundation's Affordable Housing Initiative. According to the report, the initiative has shown that foundations can support important policy and advocacy efforts without running afoul of legal constraints on lobbying; that targeted grants have successfully elevated and amplified the voices of low-income Oregonians most affected by housing issues, including people of color and culturally specific organizations; and that there are longer-term as well as immediate targets to be pursued in the area of policy and systems change.
The report found that Meyer-supported housing advocacy efforts achieved real wins in 2017, including a decision by the State of Oregon to commit an additional $150 million in support of affordable housing and new policy initiatives around manufactured housing and housing preservation. At the local level, several cities adopted construction excise taxes to support affordable housing and are currently engaged in lively debates about reducing land use and zoning barriers to additional housing development. The foundation also funded several collaborations across the state that sought to better align and coordinate housing and services in the areas of health care, foster care, and early learning.
Lessons learned with respect to supporting affordable housing advocacy include the importance of sustained, multiyear commitments; having reasonable expectations about the pace of change and what "outcomes" can be easily documented; and research, evaluation, and collaboration with other funders.