20 February, 2018
Housing is a gateway to opportunity
Housing and Homelessness Programme / Partner story
Study after study has shown that when housing is affordable and accessible, our neighbours and our neighbourhoods 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 largest private foundations in the United States 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 neighbourhood was to her family’s wellbeing. 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 neighbourhood 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 stabilised her family’s housing by allowing her to move to a better neighbourhood, while paying no more than 30 per cent 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 pay 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.
Recognising this, nine foundations from across the United States have joined together to form Funders for Housing and Opportunity. They include:
- The Annie E. Casey Foundation
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
- Ford Foundation
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The JPB Foundation
- The Kresge Foundation
- Melville Charitable Trust
- Oak Foundation
Separately, these foundations invested more than USD 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 catalyse 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 largescale change in three complementary priorities. Nearly five million has initially been committed to four grantees over the next three years to:
- Advance efforts that will result in more people being able to afford safe and stable housing by supporting policy change at the local, state, and Federal levels through national and state level advocacy work and local resident engagement.
- 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.
- 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 catalyse 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 the United States will have the opportunity to thrive. More information about the collaborative and the investments it has already made can be found at www.HousingIsOpportunity.org.