February 20, 2018

Funders for Housing and Opportunity Invests in Bold Goal to Mobilize Cross-Sector Partners to Make Safe and Affordable Housing a Reality for All Americans

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“It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.” 

― Matthew DesmondEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

A place to call home is the foundation for success in neighborhoods across the country. Families and communities thrive when they live in a safe, stable place with access to quality health care, reliable transit, and good schools and jobs.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Across the nation, low-income children and adults suffer disproportionately from chronic health conditions because they live in homes that are poorly constructed and maintained, in neighborhoods that lack access to health care services and resources. Frequently, affordable homes are located far away from public transportation, making it more difficult for the families that live there to get to work and access necessities like groceries and health care. Children who experience housing insecurity and homelessness or live in unsafe housing are more likely to change schools and miss class frequently, and have weak bonds with teachers and classmates. And finally, a lack of affordable housing in places with good jobs results in weaker economic growth and decreased earnings for workers.

The evidence is clear. Access to well designed, affordable places to live positively impacts many other aspects of life, while a lack of appropriate housing negatively affects families and communities. Unfortunately, the lack of affordable housing is widespread, impacting communities across the country. Today, over half a million people in America are experiencing homelessness, 12 million families are spending more than half of their income on rent, and 3 out of 4 renters who qualify for federal housing assistance don’t receive a dime.

But at a time when we should be investing in housing, driving the numbers of families who can’t afford their homes down and lifting people out of poverty, federal spending on housing programs is in jeopardy. The President’s FY19 Budget Request, released last week, proposes the elimination of a number of vital housing and community development programs, including CDBG, HOME, Section 4, the CDFI Fund, the Public Housing Capital Fund, and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

The time is now to bring affordable housing to the forefront of public discourse. Understanding that housing is intrinsically linked to many other social outcomes, a group of the nation’s largest private foundations have come together to make catalytic investments in activities that address homelessness and housing insecurity, and improve the lives of people and families who have difficulty affording a place to call home.

These nine foundations have joined forces to create Funders for Housing and Opportunity (FHO), and the collaborative has provided nearly $5 million to four grantees over the next three years. The goal of this funding is both bold and straightforward: 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 hold the shared 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.

FHO’s investments are targeted to spark large-scale change in three complementary priorities. These include supporting policy change at the local, state, and federal levels, through advocacy work and local resident engagement; raising awareness about the fact that housing is a public concern and how access to housing connects residents and communities to opportunity; and securing funding for evidence-based initiatives that expand cross-sector solutions.

Enterprise is pleased to have been selected as an FHO grantee, specifically focusing on raising awareness and bringing together advocates from other sectors to highlight the importance of affordable housing. We look forward to working with FHO and our other grantee partners, continuing our efforts to catalyze sustainable, long-term change and make a measurable difference in the ability of our nation’s most vulnerable families. For more information about the collaborative and the investments it has already made, please visit www.HousingIsOpportunity.org. And if you are interested in learning more or partnering with Enterprise on these efforts, please contact me at losborn@enterprisecommunity.org.