Funders for Housing and Opportunity
Jimmy Mejia and Patty Garrido live with their four daughters in South Los Angeles in a cramped three-bedroom apartment. In a story about their housing that ran on NPR last year, they told the reporter that there are holes in the ceiling, roaches in the kitchen, and their heat no longer works but they can manage the $1,600 rent. Both parents work full time (and often more) as assistant managers at a local artisanal pizza shop, blocks from the University of Southern California. In 2017, they found out that their building was sold and they were going to be evicted. This year, as they welcome another child into their family, they are desperately searching for an apartment they can afford. While rents in Los Angeles have been exploding faster than many cities, Jimmy and Patty’s crisis is not unique to LA.
The United States is at an historic crossroads: rents are rising steadily, incomes are not, and more and more families are finding it harder to afford a basic home. While some low-income, elderly or disabled Americans receive rental assistance from the government to fill the gap, 75% of those who qualify don’t get any help since housing assistance is grossly underfunded.
From our 25 years working to end homelessness in America, we know that the greatest factor impacting our ability to do so is the growing shortage of rental housing that is affordable. We also recognize that a relatively small foundation like the Trust cannot achieve the kind of impact needed to reverse this trend on our own.
Armed with this knowledge and urgency, the Trust has been strategizing with our colleagues in philanthropy about how we can use our collective power to address this growing national crisis. In 2017, we joined with eight of the nation’s largest foundations to launch Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a funder collaborative created to ensure that individuals and families across America can afford safe, stable rentals in thriving communities.
The collaborative is comprised of funders with a wide range of priorities, from housing to healthcare to children’s issues. What we all have in common is the understanding that whatever our mission is, we cannot succeed if our country does not have enough safe, decent, and affordable housing to meet the need.
Members of Funders for Housing and Opportunity
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 | Oak Foundation
Over 12 million families spend at least half their income on rent, leaving little left over for basics like food, medicine, childcare, or transportation.
Almost 80% of these families are surviving on less than $15,000 a year.
Home = Opportunity
Research shows that homes are ground zero for health and well-being. Living in a stable and affordable home has been linked to an amazing array of positive benefits:
Children do better in school.
Seniors stay healthier longer and maintain their social connections.
Workers are more productive.
Businesses have a steady supply of workers.
Trips to the emergency room decrease.
Moms have better pregnancies and babies have healthier births.
HIV drugs are more effective.
Mental health is improved.
Families have disposable income which in turn boosts local economies.
What the Grants Support
Funders for Housing and Opportunity hopes to spark a movement that fundamentally changes how our nation thinks about, talks about, and provides housing in our country. Ultimately FHO hopes to demonstrate to policy makers the fundamental importance of housing and make the case for policies and investments that can reverse the current affordability crisis. The collaborative has provided nearly $5 million to its first cohort of grantees:
Opportunity Starts at Home: The National Low Income Housing Coalition, together with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Children’s Health Watch, Make Room, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness, is leading a campaign that brings together educators, health professionals, civil rights leaders, the faith community, and others to advocate for affordable housing policy for low income people nationwide. Opportunity Starts at Home will also strengthen multi-sector campaigns at the state level.
The National Housing Trust and Enterprise Community Partners is leading a community development coalition in 10 states (Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin) that raises the voices of residents about housing concerns and connects them to elected representatives and to health, education and energy campaigns in their communities.
The Center for Community Change is expanding its Housing Trust Fund Project to help communities create or implement housing trust funds to increase revenue for affordable housing. This project will increase the power and capacity of resident leaders and networks across the country, with a particular focus on California and Washington.
The Partnership for Children & Youth will grow its expanded learning program which provides educational services to residents in affordable and public housing in California and Washington.
Alliance for Housing Justice is working in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, PolicyLink, Poverty and Race Research and Action Center, and Right to the City to align grassroots housing organizing groups and networks, amplify the voices of those most impacted by the housing crisis, and connect local and national efforts toward policy reforms addressing the housing crisis facing low- and very-low-income people.
Opportunity Starts at Home
Opportunity Starts at Home, a national multi-sector movement which generates widespread support for federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing for low-income people received one of the first grants from FHO.
The Opportunity Starts at Home podcast takes a deep look at opportunity in America, especially how housing shapes that opportunity.
Leaders in the Field: Meet Dianne Yentel
Dianne Yentel leads the National Low Income Coalition and is a longtime affordable housing policy expert and advocate. Her organization is leading the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign.