Nonprofit organizations have a long history in the United States of responding quickly and efficiently to societal problems. Some crises are difficult for government organizations and for-profit businesses to address quickly, and nonprofits are often relied upon to take up the slack. For instance, rescue missions operating on shoestring budgets were some of the first organizations to tackle America’s growing homelessness problem in the early 1900s. Environmental advocacy groups recognized the need for environmental policy reforms as early as the 1890s.
With millions of cost-leveraged families and individuals desperate for someplace affordable to live, you can be sure that nonprofit organizations are rushing in to help. Here are just a few recent and interesting dispatches from the nonprofit fight against the affordable housing crisis.
Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott recently donated $436 million in unrestricted funds to the housing advocacy nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity International to address the global housing crisis. A statement from Habitat for Humanity International said the massive donation will be used to increase the number of affordable housing units in the United States, advocate politically for policies and laws that further address the affordable housing crisis, and work to eliminate institutional obstacles to home ownership by Black people.
Online retail giant Amazon announced that it will contribute $10.6 million in low-interest loans and grants to build and renovate more than 130 affordable units in East Nashville and Rutledge Hill in Tennessee. The donation consists of a $7.1 million loan to the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency in Nashville for the construction of an affordable-housing complex, and a $3.5 million grant to construct fifty new housing units and thirty-four renovated units for individuals who are enrolled in substance-abuse programs. These donations will be funded by Amazon’s $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund. The donations will assist many people complete substance abuse programs but will also help house those who might otherwise end up homeless.
United Bank, a nonprofit community financial service provider based in Washington, D.C., is committed to what it calls “justice housing,” which is “a concept that combines deep affordability in thriving neighborhoods with proximity to essential resources and opportunities so families can lead successful lives regardless of income.” Joseph LeMense, United Bank’s managing director of community development, said his organization is forming partnerships with nonprofit developers to provide support and creative financing solutions for projects targeting those earning less than 60 percent of the median income of the D.C. area. “The city has about 700,000 people, and a meaningful percentage of them are spending in excess of 50% of their gross monthly income on housing,” LeMense said. “These folks don’t have enough left over to properly provide for their families.” The United Bank’s solutions puts affordable places to live within reach of these cost-leveraged families and individuals and also elevates their quality of life.
In Lincoln, Neb., the community development nonprofit organization South of Downtown Community Development Organization (SDCDO) is looking at uninhabited and abandoned structures as their solution to the gap in low-income, affordable housing. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the housing shortage in Lincoln was around 5,000 units in 2018. In response, the SDCDO has launched a multi-year community revitalization plan that includes both affordable rental properties as well as affordable homeownership opportunities. The SDCDO is purchasing lots in Lincoln upon which stand older vacant homes that are beyond repair. These structures are demolished, and the new housing units are built on the lots to replace them. The strategy not only creates affordable housing units, it also transforms blighted areas into livable neighborhoods.