Reflections on Housing

  • HOUSING IS A GATEWAY TO OPPORTUNITY: Funders for Housing and Opportunity Invests in Housing Stability for Individual Success and Thriving Communities

    Study after study has shown that when housing is affordable and accessible, our neighbors and our neighborhoods thrive – children do better in school, seniors are healthier longer and more socially connected, parents and children experience more positive mental health, workers are more productive, trips to the emergency room are reduced, and families have more disposable incomes to boost local economies.

    That’s why nine of the nation’s largest private foundations have joined forces to make catalytic investments in activities that address housing insecurity and improve the lives of people and families who have difficulty affording a place to call home.

    Kimberly Dale can tell you how important being able to afford rent in a good neighborhood was to her family’s well-being. Employed as a tax specialist, she found that her single income after leaving an abusive husband was not enough to allow her to move from a Chicago neighborhood rife with gun violence and underperforming schools and hospitals.

    Kimberley’s twins were experiencing health problems that doctors and teachers had written off as triggered by the violence in their community. Her luck changed when she was awarded a housing voucher that stabilized her family’s housing by allowing her to move to a better neighborhood while paying no more than 30 percent of her income toward rent. Access to better health services in her new community meant that her children were properly diagnosed and treated – her daughter with Asperger’s syndrome and her son with epilepsy. For Kimberly, housing is more than a roof over her family’s head. It is a gateway to health and opportunity.

    Yet far too many people and families do not benefit from this platform for success. More than 12 million Americans spend more than half of their incomes on rent or have no place to call home at all. These are teachers, grandparents, home health aides, hospitality workers – people we know, interact with, and depend on every day. And they are finding it harder to maintain their footing as demand for rental housing increases: the nation has seen the largest jump in renters in any 10-year period on record, resulting in rapid increases in rental costs. When housing is this unaffordable, children, families and whole communities suffer.

    Recognizing this, nine foundations from across the country have joined together to form Funders for Housing and Opportunity. They include:

    Separately, these foundations invested more than $65 million in domestic housing-related activities in 2017. The new collaborative allows these foundations to align strategies, leverage their funds, and extend their reach beyond what they could individually support.

    Funders for Housing and Opportunity has a bold goal: To ensure 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. The partners share the common belief that housing stability is a cross-sector issue, that housing security creates pathways to opportunities, and that the scale of the problem cannot be addressed in isolation. The collaborative seeks to catalyze a movement that fundamentally changes the way we think about, talk about and provide housing in our country.

    To this end, Funders for Housing and Opportunity is making investments that will spark large-scale change in three complementary, interdependent priorities. Nearly five million has initially been committed to four grantees over the next three years to:

    1. Advance efforts that will result in more people being able to afford safe and stable housing. This is accomplished by supporting policy change at the local, state, and Federal levels through national and state level advocacy work and local resident engagement.

    2. Raise awareness about housing as a shared public concern through support of efforts that pose alternatives to commonly held but misleading beliefs about why housing matters and its connection to opportunity.

    3. Highlight solutions and amplify what works by funding proven and replicable local- and state-level initiatives that expand cross-sector solutions.

    By coordinating strategies, Funders for Housing and Opportunity will catalyze sustainable, long-term change and make a measurable difference in the ability of our nation’s most vulnerable families, like Kimberly’s, to afford stable housing so that they and communities across our nation will have the opportunity to thrive.