According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is currently no state in the U.S. where a person earning the minimum wage and working 40 hours per week can afford to rent a basic two-bedroom apartment, much less purchase or rent a home. The lack of affordable housing is being felt across the country, even as home prices trend higher and inventory continues to be scarce overall. Now nine of the largest private foundations in the country are joining forces to combat this problem.
The newly announced Funders for Housing and Opportunity will unite organizations including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Melville Charitable Trust, and the Oak Foundation. As Funders for Housing and Opportunity, they will work collaboratively to ensure that “individuals and families across America who spend more than half of their income on rent—or have no homes at all—will be able to afford safe, stable rentals in thriving communities.”
Jeanne Fekade-Sellassie, Project Director, Funders for Housing and Opportunity, said, “Any one foundation, working alone, can have only limited impact given the scale of the problem. 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.”
Prior to this collaboration, the various foundations making up the Funders for Housing and Opportunity invested more than $65 million in domestic housing-related causes in 2017. To get the ball rolling, Funders for Housing and Opportunity has awarded four grants, totalling $4.9 million, to several different nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Community Change’s Housing Trust Fund Project, the National Housing Trust and Enterprise Community Partners, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the Partnership for Children and Youth.
“Housing is much more than a roof over our heads—it is a basic human need and it bolsters entire communities,” said Susan Thomas of the Melville Charitable Trust, 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.”
Without positive action, the affordable housing crisis will likely only get worse. Moreover, a December market analysis by Zillow reported that the booming single-family rental market was making the affordable housing crisis worse in some markets by further limiting options for lower- and middle-income buyers.
Thankfully, the issue has been receiving a lot of attention in recent months. In December, Fannie Mae announced its Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge, offering up $10 million for solutions to the country’s affordable housing issues. This new Funders for Housing and Opportunity collaborative stands to shine even more light on a serious and complex problem.