70,000 Affordable Housing Units to be Preserved with MacArthur Grants

By Erika Schnitzer, Associate EditorChicago—In the last 10 years, two million affordable rental homes have been lost, whether sold, demolished or priced out, said Jonathan Fanton, president of the MacArthur Foundation, in a teleconference today. Now, in an effort to preserve affordable housing, the Foundation has announced its investment of $32.5 million—$9.5 million in grants and $23 million in low-interest loans—in 12 projects to preserve more than 70,000 affordable rental homes. This investment is expected to leverage more than $147 million in other funding.  “The end of the housing bubble and a wave of foreclosures have underscored the importance of affordable rental housing,” said Fanton. “We now have an opportunity to reset the policy agenda, restore rental housing to its proper place and reshape the policy environment so that it both encourages rental housing preservation and makes it easier to do.” He asserts that preserving affordable housing costs half as much as building new housing, and that with the decline in spending for such projects, it is crucial to raise the visibility of preservation.“I think it’s critical that, in a time where so much focus has been on home ownership, we remember that rental housing is a critical part of the housing solution,” asserted Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, who noted that the administration’s budget proposal will include initiatives aimed at preserving rental housing. (Click here for the industry’s comments on Donovan’s appointment as HUD Secretary).The Foundation’s funding for these 12 projects is a part of MacArthur’s Window of Opportunity initiative, a $150 million, 10-year effort to preserve affordable rental homes across the nation. State and local governments in 40 states competed for the awards. “These grants have spurred state and local innovation and leadership in the preservation of affordable housing,” said Donovan. “At each grantee site, a representative of HUD has participated in developing the strategies and aligning efforts. 
The 12 projects that will receive assistance include:•    A loan fund for transit-oriented development in Denver that will preserve affordable housing near existing and planned public transit stations. Denver is receiving a $250,000 grant from MacArthur and a $2 million program-related investment.•    Workforce housing and housing for low-income seniors in Florida, which is receiving a $1 million MacArthur grant.•    A database of subsidized properties in Iowa in order to allocate resources and recruit developers to preserve affordable properties in rural areas. Iowa is recing a $400,000 MacArthur grant and a $2 million program-related investment.•    A preservation strategy for subsidized housing, including SROs (single room occupancy) in Los Angeles, which is receiving a $1 million MacArthur grant.•    Preservation of military housing in Maryland, which is receiving a $500,000 MacArthur grant and a $4 million program-related investment.•    An interagency working group in Mass. that will identify and preserve properties at risk of opting out of subsidy contracts. The state is receiving $1 million from the Foundation and a  $3.5 million program-related investment.•    Enhancing the system in Minn. for determining properties at risk of losing their affordability. The state will receive a $750,000 MacArthur grant and a $1.5 million program-related investment.•    A clearinghouse of information on federally subsidized properties in Ohio that will coordinate assistance for developers—including a loan fund for acquisitions—and residents. The state is receiving $1 million from the Foundation and a $4 million program-related investment.•    The expansion of the Oregon Housing Acquisition Fund to finance at-risk properties in Oregon, which will receive $1 million from MacArthur and a $4 million program-related investment.•    Energy audits in Penn. to determine cost-effective methods of increasing energy efficiency in affordable housing. Penn. is receiving a $1 million MacArthur grant. •    Initiatives to improve encourage energy conservation and the use of Medicare and Medicaid in elderly housing in Vt., which is receiving $600,000 from MacArthur and a $2 million program-related investment.•    Implementing best practices in asset management to ensure long-term stewardship of affordable housing in Wash., which will receive $1 million from the MacArthur Foundation.