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HouseUS Fund Launches with $7.5 Million in Seed Funding from Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations

·5 min read

Pooled fund will provide multi-year, unrestricted grants to grassroots and community-led organizations fighting the housing crisis

NEW YORK, Aug. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the HouseUS Fund announced that the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations have contributed more than $7.5 million in seed funding to the pooled philanthropic fund dedicated to supporting grassroots and community-led solutions to the housing crisis. Based at the Amalgamated Foundation and led by co-directors Syma Mirza and Kevin Simowitz, HouseUS will provide multi-year, unrestricted grants and capacity building support to organizers and statewide housing justice coalitions advocating for reform. HouseUS will center those who have experienced housing insecurity first hand in its grantmaking, so that they directly shape the way their communities build a better future.

Ford Foundation Logo (PRNewsfoto/Ford Foundation)
Ford Foundation Logo (PRNewsfoto/Ford Foundation)

The Ford Foundation committed $5.5 million to the HouseUS Fund with $4 million coming from the proceeds of the foundation's historic social bond sales. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation committed $2 million over the next two years. Through this initial, catalytic investment, the foundations aim to generate a total of $20 million in commitments to HouseUS and bolster and deepen support for the long term, cohesive organizing needed to create lasting change and end the housing crisis.

To advance housing justice at the state, local, and federal levels, the HouseUS Fund will assist multi-issue, diverse, and intersectional community organizations that are working to move from a culture and system that treats housing as a market-based commodity, to one where access to safe, permanently affordable housing is seen as a right for all people and a priority for policymakers.

The initial slate of grantees that have been supported through the fund include organizations in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. HouseUS-funded organizations including Florida Housing Justice Alliance, Illinois' Lift The Ban Coalition and Missouri Tenants are mobilizing communities to advocate for tenant protections and relief, providing eviction defense and other pandemic-related aid, and engaging with policymakers at multiple levels of government to secure commitments to housing justice.

"Particularly at this moment, the need for a more robust, coordinated approach to housing justice could not be clearer," said Syma Mirza, co-director of the HouseUS Fund. "HouseUS will support field leaders and affected communities to uplift a set of "North Star" policies that center the needs of tenants and move beyond piecemeal solutions created by a commodified housing market."

"We recognize that this is a moment for real, lasting change at the federal level that centers racial justice in housing policy, and HouseUS will continue prioritizing the voices, policies, and decision-making of the organizers and leaders fighting for housing justice," said Kevin Simowitz, co-director of the HouseUS Fund. "Ensuring the centrality of strategic decision making by those with lived experience of housing insecurity is the essential ingredient to transformative change at local, state, and federal levels."

"Housing is the fundamental building block to our economic livelihood, our health, and sense of community," said Maria Torres-Springer, vice president of US programs for the Ford Foundation. "For too long leaders at the frontlines of the housing crisis have lacked the resources and platforms needed to drive change. We are proud to contribute to the HouseUS Fund and support the organizers who are laying the groundwork for a cohesive housing movement and ensuring that people of all backgrounds can access secure, safe, and affordable housing."

"Improving the health of people in communities starts with ensuring they have a safe, dignified, stable place to call home," said Donald Schwarz, senior vice president of program at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "We support HouseUS in their effort to create bold, systemic change to address historic harms in housing—including racial segregation—that still, today, impact who has a fair and just opportunity for health and wellbeing."

"Every week we hear from tenants whose children are getting sick from mold, infestations, and unmet repairs in their buildings, who have to decide between silently suffering in slum-like conditions or leaving Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, FL for good because they cannot find a healthy and safe home for their family within their budget," said Santra Denis, executive director of the Miami Worker Center and member of the Florida Housing Justice Alliance. "We applaud the Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations for supporting grassroots organizations working to enforce the rights of tenants, expand protections for tenants and our families, and reduce displacement. We say enough is enough! We cannot wait for another shattering and devastating tragedy to shift how business is conducted in our state and in our country."

ABOUT THE AMALGAMATED FOUNDATION
Amalgamated Foundation is the social change partner working with the movement to expand access to capital for social change as well as advancing innovation and responsiveness in philanthropy. They forge connections and collaboration between funders and movements at the frontlines of social change. The Amalgamated Foundation's values and vision builds upon the legacy of the Amalgamated Bank, a 100-year old financial institution built by textile workers fighting to improve labor rights and the lives of local communities.

ABOUT THE FORD FOUNDATION
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than 80 years it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

ABOUT THE ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION
For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

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SOURCE Ford Foundation