Affordable Housing Initiative – Year One Evaluation

When Meyer’s current five-year Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI) launched in 2014, it felt audacious. We worked with the field to craft a refreshed framework of strategies, aimed towards innovation, systems change and the leveraging of resources. With two dedicated and experienced program officers leading the initiative, we set out to change how Meyer advanced its affordable housing work. And the equity focus that is now central to Meyer’s work was, in several key ways, first tested through AHI’s work over the last two years.

Now it’s time to take stock of our progress to date. Kristina Smock Consulting recently completed an assessment of the first full year of AHI’s refreshed grantmaking. Evaluation highlights include:

—The Preservation and Rural Housing strategies continue to achieve significant impact in preserving affordable housing across the state (p. 9-11 and p. 12-15, respectively);

—The Sustaining Portfolios strategy, in partnership with technical assistance provider, Housing Development Center, produced a trove of data about the state of ten housing portfolios, including 157 properties (p. 16-18);

—The Cost Efficiencies strategy convened an expert group to identify cost drivers and opportunities for reducing the cost of developing affordable housing (p. 19-22);

—While Oregon wrestles with a historically low vacancy rate, the Private Market strategy helped strengthen understandings of HB-2639 Housing Choice Voucher reform law, illuminated the challenges faced by low-income and underserved populations, and strengthened relationships (p. 23-27); AHI also learned promising strategies that may flourish in a market with normal vacancy rates;

—Grants made under the Advocacy strategy contributed to momentum around key local housing priorities, strengthened and diversified state-level engagement, supported 2015 legislative wins and set the stage for a robust 2016 legislative agenda (p. 31-36);

—All of the Requests For Proposals were framed with an equity lens and three-quarters of the AHI grants were awarded to projects and organizations that fulfilled at least one of the four AHI equity objectives (p. 39-47);

—Meyer’s intention around reaching all regions of the state was largely achieved, with  a significant amount of grants outside the urban Willamette Valley (p. 43);

—Goals to reach projects or organizations that served a majority people of color showed mixed success; of all the year one projects funded, 31% had projects that served a majority of people of color and 37% were for organizations that serve a majority of people of color (p. 44);

—Meyer faces challenges in implementing data collection and gathering outcomes on equity indicators (p. 40-41) and we have ample room for improvement; and

—Meyer continues to refine our AHI strategies, based on data and feedback from the field. We worked to add the Sustaining Portfolios strategy (p. 16) and modified the advocacy strategy after year one to be both wider in scope, with deeper investments over 1-2 years (p. 36).

The AHI Year One Evaluation is a sign Meyer remains committed to learning, in all forms. We built a convening structure into the AHI that facilitates sharing between grantees, field practitioners and Meyer. We continue to convene multi-sector workgroups on tough issues and will spread the findings of those groups. In the coming year, our AHI program officers will share blog posts about each of the strategies, highlighting both challenges and successes. And we know that dedicated time for learning and reflection, coupled with annual evaluations from an outside consultant, are critical to successful execution of the Initiative.

It’s clear that Meyer can’t do this work alone; we rely every day on housing developers, providers, advocates, community members and funders to carry out the vision that every Oregonian has a decent, safe and affordable place to call home.

We welcome your feedback on this Year One Evaluation of the AHI, and look forward to learning together in the coming years.

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