One Community Funder’s Hands-On Approach to the Local Affordable Housing Crisis

The Richmond Community Foundation generally sticks to issues of public safety, health, jobs and education with its grantmaking, with the most support going to nonprofit capacity building and children/youth efforts, lately. That’s why the funder’s recent push for affordable housing stands out.

Earlier this year, RCF partnered with the City of Richmond, SparkPoint Contra Costa, Mechanics Bank, Turner Group Construction and Home Depot to rehab houses through the Richmond Renovation Program. Mechanics Bank is funding social impact bonds; construction on the first two houses is underway. And we’re talking about $3 million, here, so this is clearly a big collaborative effort.

Once the homes are renovated, they will be offered to SparkPoint program graduates at affordable prices. This program helps low-income residents build credit to purchase their first home. Not only will the newly rehabbed homes be livable, but also feature energy-efficient appliances, hardwood floors, and dual-paned windows.

"The (social impact bond) does really permit us to do some incredible work in Richmond," said Jim Becker, president and CEO of the foundation. “It’s a real cost to the city to not fix these up.”

There are about 150 abandoned houses in Richmond right now, so if this project goes well with the first couple houses, there are plenty more opportunities ahead. According to the Contra Costa Times, renovations on the first house will cost the foundation around $75,000.

Any profits generated from the sale of these rehabbed homes will fund renovating even more homes. But the groups involved are being realistic and acknowledging the possibility that many of the properties will barely break even, and are aware that even trying this is a big risk.

Yet this partnership is significant as a hands-on approach to the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Community foundations are often the first to get their hands dirty, and these are the types of active roles that we’d love to see more funders take to foster real, tangible neighborhood revitalization in struggling areas.

Your best point of contact to learn more about the social bond program or to get involved in the effort is Shabnaz Yousefia at syousefia@richmondcf.org. To learn more about this funder, check out IP’s full profile on the Richmond Community Foundation