Are You Concerned about Affordable Housing?

Monday, March 3, 2014

One of the most important insights from Philanthropy New York's work helping coordinate funder efforts around Hurricane Sandy recovery, and the half-day conference we hosted at the one-year anniversary of the disaster, was that the ongoing recovery process is inextricably linked to our region's larger affordable housing crisis that has been getting worse for decades. Many of the funders involved in Sandy recovery, as well as those more generally focused on community building, have expressed interest in learning more about housing issues.

Since the fall, several major developments have come to pass. Newly elected Mayor de Blasio signaled that affordable housing would be one of his top priorities. He even changed the title of the top-level position of deputy mayor for economic development to "Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development" and named a housing team among his earliest appointments. 

The Bloomberg Administration did hit its ambitious mark of building or preserving 165,000 units of affordable housing.  Still, this week, there was widespread media coverage around both the Bloomberg Administration's affordable housing strategy of relying primarily on inclusionary zoning and its Sandy-focused Build it Back program. And, since this is New York City, we continue to be deluged with news coverage detailing how middle-class and poor people face enormous obstacles to finding and keeping housing.

In response to these developments and funder requests that we explore the topic further, we want to put out a call to all of our members: Are you interested in learning more about affordable housing issues and the emerging opportunities for funders to get involved?

One of the things we don't want to do is reinvent the wheel. The first thing we did was turn to Deutsche Bank's Gary Hattem, who has been driving several funder collaboratives focused on housing, to ask him what he's currently working on and how we could be supportive.  He told us that there has been a loyal group of donors for affordable housing and community development who have worked together for a couple of decades that includes CRA (Community Reinvestment Act)-motivated corporate banking donors and a handful of private foundations.

Philanthropic support for affordable housing has focused on several distinct strategies.  Building new housing tends to get the most attention, but efforts aimed at preserving existing housing, preventing the erosion of regulated housing and advocacy around housing subsidies and other supports have been important areas of donor activity.  A great deal of that funding has been directed toward neighborhood-based organizations developing housing. Gary talked about the Change Capital Fund, which ties housing and social supports together for vulnerable communities. He also gave us an inside tip about a major new initiative that will be launched around May this year.

Those are efforts about which many funders may want to learn more. So too are the new policy efforts being advanced by housing advocates that might change the way housing is developed across the city to encourage or mandate the construction of more affordable housing along with market-rate units.  

But before we move forward with programs or other activities, we want to hear from you. Is this an issue area that you want to know more about? We want to hear about your organizational interests in affordable housing and how this area might relate to your own work, even if your work is not in affordable housing.

Please email your thoughts to Michael Hamill Remaley, Vice President of Public Policy and Communications, at Thank you!


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