The MacArthur Foundation recently announced it is injecting $32 million into the preservation and creation of affordable housing in the U.S. The organization is giving $9.5 million worth of grants, plus an additional $23 million in low-interest loans, to programs in 12 different states that approach the issue from various angles.
MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton, during a February 26 press conference, cited a number of alarming statistics regarding affordable housing: a net loss of 1 million affordable homes over the last ten years, an 80 percent decline in government subsidies, and a standing deficit of 12 million units. “For many years, the goal of home ownership has been emphasized in the U.S., and as a country we lost sight of the value of rental housing in a balanced national housing policy,” Fanton stated. “The end of the housing bubble and a wave of foreclosures have underscored the importance of affordable rental housing.”
Many of the programs that will receive MacArthur funding work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which itself is receiving an infusion of money via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Economic stimulus funds directed toward HUD include $4 billion for improving energy efficiency in public housing, and $1 billion in community development grants to be distributed among 1,200 state and local governments. (Read more about HUD’s use of stimulus funds).
HUD Secretary Shaun L. Donovan praised the MacArthur Foundation for putting the spotlight on affordable housing and pledged to improve efficiency within HUD so that it will “become not an impediment, but an encouragement to innovation” in the public-housing sector.
Recipient; MacArthur grant amount
Denver, Colorado; $250,000: The government will establish a fund for preserving affordable rental housing near planned and existing light-rail stations. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/denver
Florida; $1 million: Funding will help non-profits and local governments take the lead in preserving affordable housing for the state’s lowest wage earners and for those with special needs, particularly the elderly. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/florida
Iowa; $400,000: The state will create a database of all Section 515 (rural rental) housing. This will help alleviate gluts of subsidized housing in depopulating areas and will allow for better resource allocation in developing districts. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/iowa
Los Angeles, California; $1 million: With 22,000 affordable housing units expected to become unaffordable in the next 10 years, the city will use the funding to align various governmental agencies to implement a preservation strategy. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/losangeles
Maryland; $500,000: Military base closures are putting increased pressure on the rental market in Maryland. Funds will go toward hiring consultants and other staff to provide organizational and outreach services. The funding also will go toward energy-efficiency upgrades to reduce tenant utility bills. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/maryland
Massachusetts; $1 million: With the fifth most expensive rental market in the country, Massachusetts is in danger of losing 41,000 affordable housing units. Funds will be used to form an interagency working group that will coordinate local, state, and federal resources to preserve affordable housing. The group also will outreach to property owners. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/massachusetts
Minnesota; $750,000: The funding will help boost the state’s ability to detect affordable housing units that are at risk of no longer being affordable. The money also will help the state better direct its resources and offer timely assistance. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/minnesota
Ohio; $1 million: High unemployment and foreclosure rates have led to increased demand for affordable housing in Ohio. The funding will enable the creation of a clearinghouse of information on federally subsidized properties, as well as help coordinate assistance to tenants and property owners. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/ohio
Oregon; $1 million: Over the next five years, federal subsidy contracts will expire on 80 percent of Oregon’s privately owned rental housing. The city and state will expand the Oregon Housing Acquisition Fund, which buys and holds at-risk properties until adequate financing can be arranged. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/oregon-portland
Pennsylvania; $1 million: The state will conduct the largest energy efficiency survey of its kind in the country, with a goal of significantly reducing utility bills for affordable rental units. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/pennsylvania
Vermont; $600,000: Rents have risen in Vermont’s relatively strong economy. The funding will help support efforts to keep rentals affordable, including the use of Medicare and Medicaid to assist with elderly housing. For information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/vermont
Washington; $1 million: More than 25,000 low-income households in Seattle spend at least half of their income on rent. The Housing Trust Fund and the city’s Office of Housing are implementing a best practices guide for property owners about asset management and recapitalization, as well as producing a Web-based reporting and benchmark system. For more information, visit www.macfound.org/housing/washington