ICYMI: Housing and Health Care Under One Roof

Central City Concern is building a six-story, $52 million development, the Blackburn Center, to increase stock and access to health care integrated housing in Portland.

Affordable Housing Finance recently published an article about the new building that will include a 40,000-square-foot integrated health care clinic and 165 units of respite care, transitional and permanent housing units:

“This is our 40th anniversary as an organization, but this is the first time where everything we do and offer will be available under one roof. That’s really the exciting part here,” says Central City Concern chief housing and strategy officer Sean Hubert. “For us as an organization, it gives us the opportunity to pilot a new way of doing business, and I think it gives us an opportunity to put the client at the center of our work and to align and build the services around the client.”

Click here to learn more about CCC's new campus of integrated housing.

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center | Courtesy Ankrom Moisan Architecture

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center, courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architecture

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ICYMI: Will “opportunity zones” help or hurt low-income neighborhoods? The jury is out

The Opportunity Zone program — a federal strategy that provides preferential tax treatment to investors, allowing them to sell a good that has increased in value, such as stock or real estate, but delay paying taxes on capital gains if they immediately reinvest in a building or business that is located in a recognized site — has selected the Rockwood neighborhood as a new opportunity zone in Oregon.

Rockwood, between the borders of Portland and Gresham, has historically been a disinvested neighborhood in the Portland area. Zoning the region as an opportunity zone will make it a tempting investment opportunity for private investors and real estate developers.

The Oregonian reports on the selection of Rockwood as an opportunity zone:

Rockwood, just inside Gresham’s borders, stretches from roughly 162nd to 202nd avenues, along East Burnside Street and the MAX Blue Line. A high percentage of residents live below the poverty line, and many are members of racial or ethnic minorities. It’s long suffered under a reputation for high crime, though its crime rate is similar to other neighborhoods considering its population.

“There are a lot of complex reasons why a neighborhood like Rockwood gets overlooked, but the systems have really failed our neighbors, and getting unstuck has been a really complicated problem,” said Brad Ketch, founder of the nonprofit Rockwood Community Development Corp.

Read the full story here.

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. | Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

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Capitalizing on housing momentum

As our portfolio name suggests, it is indeed a time of Housing Opportunities across the state. Sizeable new funding resources, innovative public-private partnerships and passage of statewide tenant protection legislation are evidence of the impressive energy and creativity responding to housing challenges across the state. In this moment of great potential, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio is pleased to open its doors for our 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity.

This is the fourth Annual Funding Opportunity cycle since restructuring our grantmaking program. We continue to refine and (we hope!) clarify the process. The list below highlights those elements that are the same this year, followed by those that have changed.

What’s the same in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

1. Our overarching housing goals are essentially the same:

• Preserve and increase the number of affordable housing rental units for priority populations

• Support the housing stability and success of priority populations

• Foster stronger, more equitable and more effective affordable housing systems and strategies

We’ve tweaked the goal language here to reflect a focus on priority populations — the people who experience the impacts of historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices. These impacts are widely felt by people of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes, as well as people with disabilities and other marginalized communities. To achieve our vision that every Oregonian has a stable, safe and affordable place to call home, we strive to focus on those who face the disproportionate impacts of housing discrimination and instability. More on that below.

2. Grant-funded work should connect to and advance the outcomes we’ve identified under the three goal areas. In addition to the nine outcomes offered last year, we have added three more. This chart provides a snapshot of the funding goals, outcomes, funding ranges and grant types to help you assess the best fit. The grant types and ranges are the same as last year. Don’t forget to take a look at the shorter list of what doesn’t fit well within the portfolio.

3. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth through the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles into both their external programming or services and internal structures and operations. We seek organizations that share our values and are making progress toward DEI integration.

As part of those DEI values, Meyer believes people experiencing housing challenges are experts on their own situations and key stakeholders in housing solutions. We seek to support work centering the lived experience and expertise of people benefitting from programs and also building the capacity of impacted communities that have faced systemic housing disparities to define and implement their own solutions to housing needs. (This ties to a new outcome around Community Influence.) We are more likely to fund projects that demonstrate meaningful involvement by the people with lived experience in defining the issues and solutions proposed.

4. General operating support grants face a high bar. As noted in our funding guidelines, we have heightened expectations from organizations that are awarded unrestricted operating support. First and foremost, they should be housing organizations (do a majority of their work in affordable housing) and strongly advance the core funding goals in our Housing Opportunities portfolio. Additionally, they should play a unique and/or important role in the field and have wider impact for the sector (e.g., as an intermediary, seen as a field leader in Oregon or nationally); demonstrate leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the context of the communities where they work; and have DEI strategies as a meaningful part of their work plan for the grant period. Reach out if you have questions about whether to apply for this funding type.

5. The Annual Funding Opportunity continues to be a competitive process, with limited funding. In the past two funding cycles, the Housing Opportunities portfolio has funded about half of the proposals we received. This means we’ve had to turn down many solid proposals. We also expect the 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity to have robust demand, due in part to the fact that the Housing Opportunities portfolio will not be offering other Requests for Proposals (RFPs) this year. Moreover, our funding amount for 2019 is smaller ($3.5 million, compared with $3.9 million last year).

What has changed in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

  1. The application process will be open for four weeks instead of five. The application period opens Monday, April 15, this year and will stay open for a month, closing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
  2. In lieu of multiple information sessions around the state, the Housing Opportunities portfolio is offering an on-demand webinar on our website. Potential applicants are encouraged to watch the webinar and review the online resources. Those with specific questions can then email questions [at] mmt.org to sign up for a 20-minute phone consultation with a member of the housing team. We want to spend more time giving personalized and concentrated feedback to applicants and less time in big, general sessions or travel.
  3. We’re trying a one-step application process this year. We heard from many of you that the initial application in our two-step application was much more intense than a typical “letter of inquiry.” This year, we’re going to try a one-step application that looks fairly similar to the questions asked last year. By combining the inquiry application and the full application, we hope for less duplication of content. By early July, we will notify applicants who are invited to move forward in our process. For selected organizations, due diligence will look pretty similar to our previous process with one exception: We will prioritize in-person site visits for newer organizations or complex projects. Applicants who have had recent site visits may only receive a follow up via phone conference.
  4. Income of people served will be a factor but not the most prominent factor in our analysis. In the past three years, we have asked all housing projects if they intend to serve people living with low-incomes (at or below 60% AMI). This year, the emphasis is on serving the priority populations who have experienced historical and current housing discrimination. Applicants should understand historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and focus their work to eliminate those disparities.

Time and again, we have seen that having a “one size fits all” approach to solving housing instability tends to be less successful than projects that use strategies designed with community input, tailored to the needs of a specific group of people. Foremost, we want to know how your project is designed to serve the needs of priority populations. The language of our goals was revised to connect all of the outcomes to the priority populations. More information on the priority populations can be found in our webinar.

Additional resources
Want more information about what we look for? We’ve gathered a set of Applicant Resources, with everything from building a budget to understanding our definition of collaborations and learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. You are encouraged to review those resources as you prepare your proposal.

Final thoughts
Your work inspires us every day. Your efforts to serve the person in front of you, while keeping an eye on the larger systems-level changes needed to address housing discrimination and disparities. You push for new tools and resources to bring housing stability to more Oregonians and then figure out how to align resources and efforts for maximum impact. We hope to be the thought-partners and funders that you need to bolster your efforts.

Yours in partnership,

—Theresa

Photo caption: The exterior of Carolyn Gardens

The exterior of Carolyn Gardens in Southeast Portland. Photo source: Human Solutions

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Four nonprofits respond to Meyer’s “1 Million Months Challenge”

Is there a better way to create more affordable housing in Oregon? We intend to find out over the next few years, as four dynamic teams test, improve and iterate on very different innovative ideas.

Last year, Meyer laid down an unusual and ambitious invitation, which we called the “1 Million Months Challenge,” to encourage innovation around affordable housing design, finance and construction. The basic intent was to empower people who think mainstream affordable development isn’t concerned enough with cost, and those who claim there are less costly ways to help people attain housing that’s affordable, but also meets some basic threshold of quality, dignity and comfort (while still attending to long-term costs of operating and maintaining housing).

A Caveat - This is Harder than it Looks!

Full disclosure: After nearly five years of engaging with experts on these issues, we are not entirely certain there’s a path that can deliver dramatic cost reductions. Too often, people who criticize the (admittedly eye-wateringly high) cost of delivering new housing do so without much experience with the thicket of constraints and cross-cutting pressures that define a typical government-subsidized multifamily development. And too often, critics suggest cutting corners without thinking through the tradeoffs of throwing out (for instance) prevailing wage requirements or building to a high standard for energy-efficiency.

As we outlined in our 2015 report, the basic math involved in building high-quality buildings makes it essentially impossible to aim for rents affordable to people earning a modest wage (or far less), and that necessarily means that public funding will be an important part of most affordable development. Factor in a white-hot construction market, expensive land, the string of expectations that follow public dollars, and the risk mitigation requirements of a dozen or more funding partners, and affordable housing seems far from affordable.

Still, that’s not an excuse for complacency, and as the 2015-16 round of grantees pursuing innovative cost efficient strategies demonstrated, there are some important ways to trim costs at the margin in design and construction, as well as some finance and design strategies that haven’t been fully tested that deserve to be further developed.


The 1 Million Months Challenge
As we reflected on what we learned from the 2015-16 RFP focused on innovation, we wanted to open the doors even wider to innovative ideas and approaches and to focus more clearly on the end goal: creating as much access as possible to affordable housing for as little public subsidy as possible. This led us to last year’s 1 Million Months Challenge, a moonshot-style competition, focusing creativity and energy around a specific, lofty goal: Bring us your best ideas for guaranteeing 1 million months of affordability, using as little public subsidy as possible.

We framed the challenge this way to emphasize flexibility and focus on the big-picture outcome: This is less about developing "projects" than creating a viable new model or path that could potentially help our partners house large numbers of people for an extended period of time.

Proposals were invited under three broad categories: Rural Workforce, Extremely Low-Income/Hard to House (i.e. those with additional challenges to housing stability like mental illness, etc.), and an Open category serving any low-income population.

Meyer received 18 proposals from across Oregon, and after an extensive vetting process, awarded grants to four projects:

BRIDGE Housing Corporation: Creating Equitable Opportunity through Opportunity Zone Investments (Statewide/Open)

BRIDGE will explore utilizing the new Opportunity Zones to promote the creation of affordable housing in Oregon without relying on scarce and competitive federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The recent federal tax cut package created tax incentives for investing in economically distressed communities (“Opportunity Zones”) defined by the state. BRIDGE will partner with Novogradac & Associates (a national tax and real estate development consultant) to develop a model for creating housing with the help of new investors expected to be drawn to the Opportunity Zones. Many in the affordable housing world are wondering whether Opportunity Zones could be an effective tool for developing affordable housing, and BRIDGE is well-positioned to be an “early-mover” here and to share what they learn with the field.

Housing Development Center: Zero Energy Modular for Rural Workforce Homeownership (Statewide/Rural Workforce)

Housing Development Center (HDC) will partner with Vermont Energy Investment Corp. to bring VEIC’s interesting zero-energy modular housing model to scale in Oregon, combined with a land trust model to assure long-term affordability. HDC is a leading nonprofit consulting firm focused on affordable housing finance and development across the state and a partner with Meyer on several recent important projects. This proposal takes on several key unresolved issues in affordable housing in Oregon: how to scale up modular design and construction beyond its very small current market share, how to jump-start affordable housing production in rural Oregon, and how to leverage highly energy-efficient new construction for long-term affordability.

SquareOne Villages: Affordable Together: scaling a community-based approach to housing (Lane County/Open)

SquareOne Villages was a grantee in the first round of Cost Efficiency grants in 2015-16, developing and documenting best practices around creating new tiny home villages for extremely low-income people (typically those leaving homelessness) in Lane County. In its next phase of work, it will explore combining limited equity cooperative ownership with a community land trust structure to create a new affordable homeownership model. Since it began experimenting with very low-cost housing options, SquareOne has progressively stepped up its ability to improve the quality and design of tiny homes, and if this hybrid ownership structure is successful, it could benefit a range of similar efforts across the state.

In addition to those three projects, a fourth organization was awarded a grant under Meyer’s 2018 RFP to improve access to private market housing and was invited to join the 1 Million Months cohort because its work aligns well with the goals and intent of the 1MM RFP:

Hacienda CDC: Community-based affordable ADU rentals to increase the supply of private market units and stabilize low-income homeowners at risk of displacement. (Portland/Open)

Hacienda has been a leading partner in the Living Cully collaborative (along with Verde, NAYA and Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East), which has been engaged in robust neighborhood-focused work on affordable housing and community development since 2010.

This project will fund the design, planning and implementation of affordable accessory dwelling units to be rented to low-income tenants and people of color in Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland. The project will not only create new affordable units, but also help insulate low-income homeowners from displacement pressures by supplying them with supplemental income from the rentals.

What Comes Next

The four grantees are just beginning their work now and are committed to sharing what they discover over the next two years. Meyer plans to provide a series of opportunities for stakeholders and other interested parties to engage with the cohort and learn from their work to build out replicable and scalable new approaches. Stay tuned for more!

— Michael

1 Mill months challenge progress update: New projects will test financing, design and construction ideas for affordable housing
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Merging ahead

In the road of Meyer’s housing work, we are seeing a “Merge Ahead” sign. Our Affordable Housing Initiative, a five-year plan to explore innovation, support systems change and leverage resources to meet the housing needs of Oregonians is coming to its official end. That isn’t to say that our work will stop. Rather, it will be blended in with the Housing Opportunities portfolio and not labelled as a separate initiative.

In the foundation world, an initiative is a focused effort to support change. It implies that the foundation is taking the initiative to set aside specific goals and strategies for a particular effort. At the time the Meyer’s Affordable Housing Initiative was established, the foundation was a traditional responsive grantmaker. Applicants could submit proposals on the topic of their choice, which allowed grantseekers to have maximum flexibility but made it difficult to move a body of work toward a specific end.

The Affordable Housing Initiative was one of Meyer’s first two initiative experiments, the other being the Willamette River Initiative. From the time they launched in 2008, both became incubators for new ways of working as a foundation. Through the Affordable Housing Initiative we:

  • Engaged with our partners in deeper collaborative work, starting with an advisory committee that helped identify the eight targeted strategies of the Affordable Housing Initiative;
  • Sought grant proposals that advanced our specific strategies, using new funding mechanisms like Requests for Proposals (we’ve completed 15 RFPs, awarding more than 125 grants) and Meyer-directed grants;
  • Launched an early prototype of an equity lens, specifically prioritizing under-resourced communities, including communities of color, culturally specific organizations and underserved rural communities. For the first time, our applications asked for disaggregated data on who was being served by a project, as well as the board and staff makeup of an organization;
  • Hired program officers Elisa Harrigan and Michael Parkhurst for their specific experience and leadership in the affordable housing sector;
  • Began to regularly incorporate new tools beyond grantmaking: convening to foster sharing and peer-learning, research, assessments and third-party evaluations, advocacy and education, along with strategic communications;
  • Used smaller grants to support the technical assistance needs of our partners, along with field-building grants to support broad conferences and other learning opportunities;
  • Established collaborative funding efforts with other funders, including Oregon Housing and Community Services; and
  • Developed stronger ties with the investments side of the house at Meyer. This has allowed us to better connect our work and support some innovative work by the investment team.

In these ways, the Affordable Housing Initiative ran as a parallel path to Meyer’s core grantmaking work. Successes and stumbles learned from this incubator helped inform the restructure of Meyer’s programs in 2015, when we created four portfolios to help move us toward a flourishing and equitable Oregon. Forming the Housing Opportunities portfolio provided us the space to add more dedicated housing staff and roll out a more responsive funding opportunity to complement the targeted strategies we had been doing through the AHI.

When the parallel roads merge this month, you are not likely to see much difference. We’ll have the same staff, the same use of RFPs to advance specific strategies as well as an annual funding opportunity and the same attention to policy- and systems-level change. We’ll have a clear focus to center people experiencing housing discrimination and work to reduce the disproportionate impacts of racist and discriminatory housing policy on Indigenous communities, people of color, people with disabilities and other priority populations.

Through five intense years of the Affordable Housing Initiative, Meyer’s housing staff have reflected on our work and corrected our course based on market fluctuations, policy changes and a sharpened equity mission. Later this year, we’ll complete a more holistic assessment of the impact of the AHI on our partners and the larger housing landscape in Oregon. If you are interested in participating in a focus group for the evaluation, let us know on this form.

The Affordable Housing Initiative helped Meyer deepen and transform its work, and we are confident its lessons will continue to influence our work and the wider housing field in Oregon.

The road ahead is full of promise.

— Theresa

Photo caption: A merge ahead sign atop a sky background.
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Apply Soon: Housing Advocacy RFP

Today, Meyer's Housing Opportunities portfolio released a new Request for Proposals to support housing advocacy efforts around the state.

We think of "advocacy" pretty broadly, including community organizing and mobilization, policy analysis and research, focused communications and education around housing issues, as well as targeted approaches to achieve specific policy goals. Proposals under this RFP can address local, regional and/or statewide issues but must have a strong connection to affordable housing.

This RFP will focus on two tracks: Campaign Leaders, for work that is focused on a clear policy or systems change goal and is led by a strong coalition of partners, and Advocacy Mobilizers, which may be more broad and less focused on one specific issue or for the early stages in mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities.

For either track, strong proposals will reflect a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; a clear sense of the issues to be addressed and obstacles to be overcome; and some track record doing the kind of work proposed. We strongly encourage proposals that bring in voices and collaborators that may not have been part of affordable housing advocacy in the past.

Those awarded grants under this RFP will be invited to participate in one or more convenings and will have a chance to network with and learn from other grantees in the cohort.

An application under this RFP does not preclude organizations from submitting proposals for other Meyer funding opportunities and grantseekers may apply to this RFP regardless of any other active Meyer grants.

Two information sessions are scheduled to explain the RFP in detail and answer questions. Register to attend a session at 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 or 3 p.m. on Feb. 5. Register online here.

Proposals will be accepted online (via grantis.mmt.org) until Feb. 26, 2019. Funding decisions are expected in late spring, with grant payments going out shortly thereafter. Make sure you're signed up for our Housing newsletter to stay current on this and other funding opportunities!

— Michael

Preview this RFP

Housing Opportunities: 2019 Advocacy RFP details
  1. Information sessions

Funds will be awarded in two tracks: 

  • Campaign Leaders: grants intended for focused and targeted efforts with a clear policy or systems change goal led by a strong coalition of partners with a credible plan to succeed. Maximum of $75,000 available per year, for a total of $150,000 over two years.

  • Advocacy Mobilizers: for organizing efforts that may be more broad-based and less focused on one issue, or in an earlier stage of mobilizing support for more affordable housing opportunities. Maximum of $40,000 available per year, for total of $80,000 over two years.

Final award decisions are expected in May 2019, with first-year payments released in June 2019.

Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and be available to answer questions at two information sessions:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, from 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Both information sessions will be held virtually. Visit our official event page to RSVP.
 

Housing advocacy grantees at the Oregon capital
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Personal reflections from my visit to Minidoka

As most folks packed up their belongings and headed home after the Philanthropy Northwest annual conference, I boarded a bus with several other PNW members and staff and headed to Jerome, Idaho to visit the Minidoka National Historic Site and view what’s left of the former incarceration camp that held my family, along with 13,000 other people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

As you step onto the ashy soil of the high desert plain, it’s hard not to notice how little of the camp is left and the expansive scale that it once occupied. Originally 33,000 acres, the camp became the seventh largest city in Idaho at the time. I try to imagine what life would’ve been like behind these barbed wires and underneath the ever-present gaze from the guard tower. I think about how terrified my grandmother must have been, younger than I am now with two young children and pregnant with a third, having just lost everything and now forced to live in a shabby barrack with several other families and no idea about what will happen next. Everything unknown.

I grew up with stories of my family just trying to maintain as much a sense of community as possible, and I can feel that when walking along the baseball field or stepping into the fire stations at Minidoka. Scanning photos of the makeshift holiday celebrations and the community gardens, knowing how my family had to completely rebuild their lives after leaving the camps, the resiliency of the Japanese American community is not lost on me. I feel the strength of my relatives under the face of oppression in the core of my being and in my motivation for supporting communities of color in this work.

My grandmother was vocal about sharing her experience at Minidoka so that it would never happen again. As a yonsei, fourth generation Japanese American, I also know that the trauma of this experience lasts for generations. As I continue to grow within the field of philanthropy, I carry my family’s strength and experience with me and I move towards the ways that philanthropy can play an active role in fighting the oppression of communities of color by centering them in our work, following their lead, elevating their voices and supporting their work. Because “never again” is right now.

— Lauren


This article was originally published by Philanthropy Northwest.

A stone monument near the entrance of Minidoka Relocation Center, reminding visitors of “what can happen when other factors supersede the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens and aliens living in this country.”

A stone monument near the entrance of Minidoka Relocation Center, reminding visitors of “what can happen when other factors supersede the constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens and aliens living in this country.”

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Manufactured home repairs make a real difference in rural Oregon

Turns out, Fred Meyer was right. When he established what would become the Meyer Memorial Trust, Mr. Meyer offered this insight: "With thoughtful giving, even small sums may accomplish great purposes."

So it might not come as a surprise that just a few thousand dollars can sometimes make a huge difference for people facing unsafe housing conditions, shockingly high utility costs or even homelessness.

That's one takeaway from the Year One (interim) report recently delivered by an independent evaluator Meyer engaged to analyze the impact of grants we made in 2017 to nine organizations helping to make crucial repairs and other important upgrades to manufactured homes in rural Oregon.

Why Manufactured Housing?

Meyer has been actively engaged in issues around manufactured housing for about a decade. We've supported creative and impactful work to convert investor-owned parks to resident-owned cooperatives; funded efforts to pilot affordable replacement of older, substandard homes; and more than once wrestled with issues around repairing homes. We have been fortunate to work with a wide array of partners committed to improving conditions for people in manufactured homes, including CASA of Oregon, NeighborWorks Umpqua, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County, Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, the state of Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, Craft3, and USDA Rural Development, among others.

All this work is driven by the realization that manufactured homes are a crucial slice of currently affordable housing in Oregon and often the only affordable homeownership option for many people, especially in rural Oregon. About 140,000 households across the state live in manufactured homes, and nearly half those homes are at least 40 years old. Not every older manufactured home is in dire shape, but many older homes are well past their best days (particularly those built before the federal code updates of 1976 raised the bar for the initial quality and durability of new homes). Residents sometimes are living with structural defects, health hazards, terrible energy efficiency and even major safety issues.

Ideally, many of these homes would be retired and replaced by new, energy-efficient homes, but not everyone is in a position to afford such an upgrade, even with new layered subsidies some of our partners are piloting.

This urgent and ongoing need motivated our Request for Proposals in late 2016 focused on crucial repairs (including energy- and accessibility-related upgrades). We directed this funding to programs serving rural Oregon, both because we felt much of the state's need was outside urban areas and because smaller communities typically lack the local resources that could fund these repairs.

Evaluating Impact

Looking beyond the two-year grants Meyer funded, we wanted to be able to show other funders (public and private) that continuing and expanding this work was impactful and a prudent use of scarce housing resources. To that end, we hired an independent evaluator (Chari Smith of Evaluation Into Action) to help us design and carry out a cross-site evaluation that could analyze and summarize what we learned from the nine projects we funded. We recently received the Year One report, which summarizes early results.

Highlights from the Year One Report

Evidence the evaluator collected from the program staff and from the people who were helped validated Meyer's sense that this work addresses important housing issues and made a material difference in the lives of people served. A total of 107 home repairs were completed by the nine grantees. Roughly half of those served completed and returned detailed surveys about their experience with the repairs done. Of these:

  • 72 percent reported the repairs will help them continue to live in their home longer (by addressing potentially serious issues that could jeopardize their ability to stay there); 90 percent felt that the general comfort level of their home was improved.
  • 70 percent felt their home was made safer by the repairs.
  • 64 percent reported the repairs would help improve their health.
  • 74 percent saw increased energy efficiency as a result of the repairs.

The improvements were targeted to people who had few other options for making these kinds of repairs. Nearly all the people helped live on an annual income of less than $30,000, two-thirds are seniors, and more than half the households have one or more members with a disability.

"For me, this process was lifesaving. Without your help, I can't imagine how things would be. I feel much safer and am so thankful you have programs like this for me."

 

"I was able to wash dishes, do my laundry, take a shower or bath. I can say that I never realized how much having hot water means in everyday living. … I live on a fixed income, and I could not have afforded to get a new hot water heater without this program."

 

Looking Ahead

The nine projects will wrap up their two years of Meyer funding in early 2019, and next fall we'll share the final report summarizing what we learned and what other funders might take away from this work. Some early thoughts on next steps we would highlight for our partners:

  • There is a real need for more data, specifically on the health impacts of improvements to homes with serious health and safety hazards. This is an area where health partners such as coordinated care organizations could target some research connecting longer-term results of repairs with health outcomes and could lead to a strong evidence-based argument for funding repairs like this. Preventing falls, addressing respiratory issues such as mold, and generally supporting the ability of people to age in place (often in tight-knit and nurturing communities) seems likely to be well worth the relatively modest cost.
  • Flexibility is an important consideration for other funders. All of the projects funded used some federal and/or state funding to help with these repairs, but those sources come with restrictions that can exclude homes (or particular issues) that urgently need attention. We heard loud and clear from our partners that the flexibility of Meyer funding was helpful in both leveraging other funds and filling gaps some programs can't.
  • Organizational capacity can be a big issue for those delivering these repairs. Stable, multi-year funding is really essential to allowing organizations to make the investments in personnel, training and other resources to consistently serve this niche, and we all should be alert for opportunities to scale up and increase this capacity. Every grantee spoke of long waiting lists and unmet needs they could address with more funding. Steady and reliable funding could also help with building a cadre of reliable contractors ready and able to do repairs, which was an issue in some parts of the state.

We look forward to sharing this work and continuing to partner with the determined and dedicated partners around the state committed to sustaining and improving this affordable housing option.

Michael

Affordable Housing Initiative: Manufactured Home Repair Impact Summary Report - Year One 2018
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Funding statewide stability: Housing Opportunities portfolio awards $5.86 million in grants

Through our Annual Funding Opportunity, this year the Housing Opportunities portfolio saw many of our partners propose innovative solutions to address some of the most complex housing challenges in Oregon. In surveying the awards, grit and creativity rise to the top as two of the most prominent themes of the efforts of this year's 33 grant recipients — taken from 78 applicants — receiving awards totaling $5.86 million.

And, yes, like previous years, projects funded in 2018 span the entirety of our state, from urban to rural regions and include large and small organizations focusing on single efforts and group collaborations. And a few organizations were funded by Meyer for the first time.

Each year, we seek grant proposals that will move us closer to our vision of safe, affordable, long-term housing for all Oregonians. Knowing that our funds are limited, we look for strategic investments that reflect an understanding of racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and work to eliminate those imbalances through collaboration, systems-level change and resource alignment. That's the joy and challenge of working within this portfolio. Needs make themselves known and we respond. It's our job to find them.

Thankfully, our partners make that easy.

We'll take a closer look at two topics that gained traction in this year's batch: replacement of substandard manufactured housing and providing housing for formerly incarcerated people.

When Meyer established its initial housing goals five years ago, preservation of rural manufactured housing was one of our key strategies. We knew that manufactured housing is a primary source of affordable housing in many rural Oregon communities. A significant percentage of those homes were built before 1980, and many are in significant disrepair, forcing families to live in unstable and unhealthy environments and pay a significant portion of their limited incomes on utility costs. Our partners labored for years to piece together the puzzle of resources needed to replace these substandard homes at a price families could afford.

Four proposals funded in this batch focus on replacing dilapidated mobile homes. Each proposal comes at it from a unique angle, bringing expertise and connections to address part of the issue. For example, we've been working with Community and Shelter Assistance of Oregon on housing issues for a number of years. This year, CASA of Oregon received a two-year grant to fund a replacement strategy manager position that will both manage and document the ambitious collaboration happening at a resident-owned cooperative park in southern Oregon.

There, ten organizations have been working together to replace aging, substandard manufactured housing units, including CASA of Oregon, Energy Trust of Oregon, Craft3, USDA Rural Development, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, NeighborWorks Umpqua, United Community Action Network, Small Business Legal Clinic and Umpqua Ranch Cooperative. Their collaborative effort is the breakthrough culmination of past ideas and efforts — dating back at least five years — to produce a successful program model that will allow home replacement with new, energy-efficient manufactured housing at little increase in monthly cost.

That means fewer repairs, lower energy bills and healthier homes. Better homes allow families to focus more energy on career, education and family goals. Families will also feel empowered because they'll be living in new homes that can be preserved for the next generation.

We at Meyer are even more buoyed by the long-term ripple effect this model may one day achieve.

A critical component of the newly funded position at CASA of Oregon is to memorialize every phase of the process so that other organizations throughout the state can reproduce and adapt its processes to fit their needs and unique circumstances. It's thrilling to imagine the number of new homes for low-income individuals and families, immigrants and elderly people that may emerge from this project.

Three other proposals in this batch are also immersed in manufactured housing. When viewed together, the collective work is poised to make big strides that can address the thorny issues around manufactured housing replacement.

  • Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation has engaged in a range of homeownership counseling services, such as financial capacity building, matched savings accounts, reverse mortgages and foreclosure counseling. Increasingly, it was seeing owners of manufactured housing coming in with requests but found it was ill-equipped to serve them because of distinct differences inherent in manufactured housing. Meyer's grant will support NEDCO staff focused on manufactured housing education and counseling services over two years.
  • Craft3 received a two-year grant to pilot a funding model with the Energy Trust of Oregon to replace aging and unsafe manufactured homes in southern Oregon with healthy, energy-efficient models, helping low- and moderate-income homeowners with long-term housing stability.
  • Meyer supported St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County to preserve needed affordable housing at Saginaw Mobile Home Park. With many park homes deemed unlivable, the grant will help to replace existing single-wide manufactured homes with new, energy-efficient models and improve the health, safety and long-term viability of the park.

We also saw breakthrough work this year from Sponsors, which provides transitional and long-term housing services to previously incarcerated individuals, for whom firm grounding in the housing market has always proven elusive. The Sponsors grant will staff and support a multi-sector collaborative integrating comprehensive case management and parole and probation supervision support with permanent supportive housing for the prison re-entry population in the Lane county area.

This level of assistance is essential. Individuals released from prison often can't compete for housing in the marketplace for numerous reasons: a prison record, inadequate rental history, lack of funds, the absence of a job and so on. Yet housing is the most stabilizing factor in a person's life and provides a crucial platform for employment, education and health.

Sponsors works directly with Homes for Good, which is familiar with supporting high needs populations, to ensure a holistic approach to property management and solving housing disputes in an equitable way before resorting to evictions. The pilot was extremely successful, achieving a one-year housing stability rate of 87 percent and a one-year incarceration recidivism rate of only 2.4 percent. Recent analysis conducted by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission found that the one-year felony re-conviction rate among residents at one of the Homes for Good sites with Sponsors was 60 percent lower than the Oregon state baseline.

Sponsors has been working for years to make housing less daunting to this vulnerable population. The rest of us are just catching up to their good work.

We applaud our partners in the field — including Sponsors, CASA of Oregon and dozens of others — that remain committed to solving some of the hardest issues in affordable housing and breaking down barriers to equity that have likely been in place for decades, possibly generations. It is only through our partners' work that Meyer will see strides toward our mission of an equitable and flourishing Oregon.

A full list of the grants in this year's Annual Funding Opportunity batch can be found here.

— Theresa

2018 PORTFOLIO GRANT AWARDS

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Funding statewide stability: Housing Opportunities portfolio awards $5.86 million in grants
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1 Million Months Challenge update

This summer Meyer challenged Oregon experts on innovative housing design, construction and finance to think big: Bring us your best ideas to create 1 million months of affordable housing for as little public subsidy as possible.

Our 1 Million Months Challenge RFP elicited 18 proposals from teams around the state that brought fresh thinking to the basic thrust of our question: How can communities help many more people into housing that's suitable and affordable, given current levels of funding?

We are glad to report that a first look through the proposals validates our hope that there are promising, untested approaches that might well be worth trying. Those who submitted concepts in that first round that seem most impactful and innovative will be invited to submit more detailed full proposals this fall, with funding decisions announced in January 2019.

We look forward to sharing what emerges from this work with you and getting your thoughts on how to channel and support the creativity people have brought to it!

–– Michael

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1 Million Month Challenge

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Updates on Meyer's 1 Million Months Challenge
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