November 16, 2017

How housing equity shows up

“With thoughtful giving, even small sums may accomplish great purposes.”

Those are the final words of the will established by our founder, Fred G. Meyer, in 1976. As Meyer Memorial Trust makes grants to help move our mission of a more equitable and flourishing Oregon, we take that philosophy to heart. We know that the investments made in our Annual Funding Opportunity process are just a fraction of the support provided by our public and private sector partners.

How, then, can we make the most of limited funding to meet our mission? For the Housing Opportunities portfolio, it means looking for the pressure points — “acupuncture philanthropy” as described by Rip Rapson of The Kresge Foundation — that will launch, test, propel, deepen, leverage and evaluate efforts to bring safe, decent and affordable housing to all Oregonians.

Rather than investing in a single building or a single approach, we deploy our housing funds in a way that addresses a variety of needs across the state, in close collaboration with our nonprofit partners, public funders and leaders from other sectors, and in a way that improves conditions so that all people can reach their full potential.

In this year’s annual funding round, the Housing Opportunities portfolio received 78 applications, down from the 106 received last year. We moved 43 to the second step of the application process and ultimately awarded 39 grants (a 50 percent funding rate).

Digging into the details of these Housing Opportunity grants, we see:

  • Funded projects are spread across the state, with the majority serving rural regions, another 16 serving non-rural regions, a handful serving tribes and tribal reservations and other grants serving diffuse statewide efforts.

  • Some grants serve multiple purposes or regions

  • Seven projects are led by collaboratives

  • Organizations that have never applied to Meyer, or never previously received a Meyer investment, comprised 20 percent of our portfolio grants

  • A majority of grants were made to large-budget organizations (over $1 million budgets are not uncommon in the housing world) and 10 percent were to smaller organizations with budgets under $200,000

  • The grants total just over $3.5 million for the first year and about $5 million over three years.

Meyer has publicly committed to improve conditions where all people can reach their full potential — what we call “equity.” Using this lens in our grantmaking involves tracking outcomes and disaggregating data to understand inequitable systems and practices, prioritizing underserved populations, and lifting up the voices and leaders of communities working to overcome bias and oppression.  

In this batch, equity shows up in many different ways, highlighted below:

Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” approach to dismantling  barriers to opportunity, even in the housing sector. Yet these 39 grantees share a common vision of housing stability as a foundation to reaching one’s potential and a commitment to advancing equity in their organizations and communities.

We encourage you to review the list of Housing Opportunities grants here for more details on these grants, and we invite your observations and feedback on our work to address housing inequities with this slate of grantees. Are we achieving “thoughtful giving” that will allow our partners to achieve great purposes?