Bringing together funders to create a just and accessible housing system

Today over 12 million Americans  pay more than half of their monthly income on rent or do not have a home at all. Over 9.6 million of these households make less than $15,000 a year, including seniors and people working taxing but low-paying jobs like home health care workers and hospitality workers—people we see, interact with, and depend on every day. What’s left over after rent can’t cover groceries, child care, medicine, transportation, or other essentials.

As rents spiral out of control, it is clear that the private market alone is not able to produce housing that people with the lowest incomes can afford.

To address this, in 2018, nine national foundations launched Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a collaborative dedicated to tackling housing affordability and opportunity: Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,  JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Melville Charitable Trust, and Oak Foundation.

The goal of the collaborative is to ensure that millions of households can afford safe and stable rental homes in neighborhoods with access to amenities supporting better health and well-being, economic mobility, and economic achievement, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or ZIP code. We believe a partnership between the nation’s leading foundations engaged in housing, and those foundations with complementary missions can be a powerful force for change. Whether a funder’s core mission is focused on education, health, work, homelessness, children, or older adults, safe and stable housing is fundamental to all of our work.


FHO’s priorities

With a focus on individuals and families that are “precariously housed” (those paying more than 50% of their income on rent and people experiencing homelessness), FHO works in three areas:

1. Policy organizing and advocacy: 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. Changing the narrative about affordable housing and its relation to opportunity: 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. Lifting up and scaling what works: Highlight solutions and amplify what works by funding proven and replicable local- and state-level initiatives that expand cross-sector solutions


The Melville Trust’s Role

At the end of 2014 we set out to determine how philanthropy could leverage its convening power and ability to work across sectors to impact the housing affordability crisis. It was clear that alone we could not achieve the kind of impact needed to reverse this national crisis. We approached seven foundations that had invested substantially in housing-related work and, believe as we do, that housing is a platform for achieving overall well-being. The group met quarterly over the course of eighteen months and agreed upon a framework that helped launch FHO.

For more information please contact Jeanne Fekade-Sellassie, Project Director, Funders for Housing and Opportunity