Funders for Housing and Opportunity

A philanthropic collaborative committed to bettering life outcomes for the millions of Americans that lack stable housing by addressing housing affordability.

The Challenge

The housing affordability crisis in our country has stifled opportunity and threatens the health and stability of millions of Americans. Today there are:

  • Over 12 million Americans who 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.

If we act

The Solution

By bringing together some of our country’s leading foundations, we believe we can begin to turn the curve on this issue.

In 2016, eight national foundations formed Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a collaborative dedicated to tackling housing affordability and opportunity: Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Ford Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Conrad N. Hilton FoundationThe Kresge Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Melville Charitable Trust, Oak Foundation, J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families. These foundations make up the steering committee of the collaborative. Staff support for the collaborative over its first year has been provided by PolicyLink, serving as the project manager, and the National Housing Conference, The Urban Institute, and Hattaway Communications provided technical support and expertise.

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.

The Melville Trust’s Role

From our 25 years working to end homelessness, we know that the greatest factor impacting our ability to do so is the growing lack of affordable housing. 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 have 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 we believe will yield measurable results.

More about Funders for Housing and Opportunity

By Frank Mckenna

Photo: Frank Mckenna

As rents spiral out of control, it has become clear that the private market alone is not able to produce housing that people with the lowest incomes can afford. Funders for Housing and Opportunity is setting out to leverage leadership and investment from the public sector and the active participation of communities to bring about the large-scale changes that will improve the lives of people who too often are left behind.

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 will focus its efforts in three areas:

  1. Policy organizing and advocacy: This may include support of national and state level advocacy work, local grassroots organizing, and connections to narrative change efforts. Through this work, FHO seeks to promote changes and enhancements of local, state and federal policies to enable precariously housed families to afford safe, stable homes that are linked to better health, economic mobility and educational achievement outcomes.
  2. Changing the narrative about affordable housing and its relation to opportunity: Investments in this area will support organizations, programs and initiatives that pose alternatives to commonly held but misleading beliefs about why housing matters, what “affordable housing” means, why housing is a shared public concern, and what needs to be done to ensure everyone can afford a safe, stable home. Drawing from a grounded understanding of the chief concerns of public audiences, funded work will employ a variety of methods to engage the public, the media, and targeted groups.  Our goal through this work is to change the way people think about, talk about, and deliver housing in the United States.
  3. Lifting up and scaling what works: Priority in this investment area will be given to local- and state-level initiatives where FHO participation can help leverage additional public, philanthropic or private-sector investment to advance expand cross-sector solutions between housing, health and education. Through this work, we seek to foster lasting partnerships that result in scalable improvements to health, housing stability, and educational achievement outcomes of precariously housed families.

Funders for Housing and Opportunity will make its first round of co-investments in 2017 and we will share this information here.

For more information

Please contact Susan Thomas, Senior Program Officer: sthomas@melvilletrust.org

Resources & Learnings