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Foundations pledge $4.9 million in new affordable housing initiative

Funders for Housing and Opportunity want to help close a housing gap that government alone isn’t fixing

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A new charitable initiative wants to help address the nation’s affordable housing crisis, leveraging funding from many of the nation’s biggest foundations to help fill a growing gap.

The Funders for Housing and Opportunity (FHO) will make “catalytic investments in activities that ensure stable housing in thriving communities,” pledging to invest $4.9 million to provide more affordable housing over three years.

The mobilization comes, in part, from recognition from members that federal and local assistance isn’t fully addressing the issue.

“We do expect things to get a lot worse before they get better, based on what’s happening in Washington, D.C., as well as economic trends in major cities,” said Don Chen, director of equitable development for the Ford Foundation, one of the participating foundations. “We hope the number of funders will grow.”

The founding members of the collaborative include The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Melville Charitable Trust, and Oak Foundation.

The first set of grantees include the Center for Community Change, The National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Partnership for Children & Youth, and the National Housing Trust and Enterprise Community Partners.

Housing stability has remained unreachable for the 12 million people who spend more than half of their income on rent or have not home at all, according to the press release announcing the initiative.

On both a national and city level, affordable housing has fallen behind the needs of the American population. According to Harvard’s recent America’s Rental Housing 2017 report, wages haven’t come close to keep pace with housing costs. Between 2001 and 2011, median rental housing costs rose 5 percent, while median renter incomes actually dropped 15 percent. The lack of new affordable apartment construction has left the gross vacancy rate at its lowest point since 2000.

The participating foundations have taken on housing affordability as part of a holistic approach to improve health and wellness. Affordable and accessible housing has been linked to better mental health outcomes, reduced healthcare spending, worker productivity, and additional disposable income.