Here’s an Affordable Housing Funder Prioritizing Gulf Coast Flood Relief

Enterprise was founded by Jim and Patty Rouse back in 1982 with a vision to end poverty in the U.S. by improving the affordable housing system. It works with partners across the country to create and advocate for affordable housing that’s linked to good schools, jobs, transportation, and health care. And over the past 30 years, the lender/developer has invested over $23.4 billion in this cause and built at least 358,000 homes.

But what made Enterprise recently stand out to us was its broad support for disaster relief efforts in addition to traditional affordable housing projects. This past year has seen more than its fair share of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters, and disaster recovery is an issue that often gets overlooked by affordable housing funders that are deeply entrenched in building projects.

Although Enterprise works in communities all across the country, it has been paying special attention to the Gulf Coast region lately. After historic floods struck south-central Louisiana in August, Enterprise Community Partners committed to awarding at least $300,000 in grants to local organizations that are assisting with flood relief and recovery efforts. The media attention on this devastation has subsided, but there is still much work to be done throughout the state.

Several local organizations have already received these grants from Enterprise, including the Arc Baton Rouge, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge, and Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training. These grants are going to support mold remediation and repairs at an emergency care center, help non-English speaking families buy essentials, and repair flood-affected homes in the area.

However, grant opportunities are still available to get in on these Enterprise funds.

“We hope that our grant commitment will help attract additional resources to the region from business, government and philanthropy,” said Michelle Whetten, vice president and Gulf Coast market leader at Enterprise. “While national media attention on the flooding has ceased, the devastation it caused and the need for support continues.”

Yet Enterprise’s support for the Gulf Coast region is nothing new. It first got involved down here after Hurricane Katrina, when it committed to preserving and creating 10,000 affordable homes with an investment of over $200 million in loans, grants, and equity as the region rebuilt itself.

Enterprise’s Gulf Coast work is focused on the following priorities:

  • Improve the capacity of local government and developers in the Gulf Coast to provide high quality, energy efficient for-sale and rental affordable housing and to utilize effectively public and private resources to support this work.
  • Advocate for federal, state and local public policies to support high quality redevelopment of affordable housing
  • Support a lasting infrastructure and production system for affordable housing development
  • Demonstrate best practices in energy-efficient, mixed-income housing and community development through the redevelopment of the Lafitte public housing complex and the surrounding New Orleans neighborhoods of Treme and Tulane-Gravier.
  • Apply lessons learned and best practices from Katrina recovery to other parts of the country experiencing disasters.

Gulf Coast grantmaking and lending is localized in Louisiana and Mississippi, states that Enterprise has invested about $300 million in to create at least 10,000 affordable homes. One prominent program here is the Louisiana Loan Fund, which pays for the redevelopment of vacant and blighted single-family home properties in New Orleans.

Green building techniques are also important to Enterprise, and it’s incorporated green standards into state and local housing programs like the Louisiana Housing Corporation’s Qualified Allocation Plan for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit developments and the State of Louisiana small rental property repair program. Local Gulf Coast partners include Faubourg Lafitte in New Orleans, Oak Haven Apartments in Waveland, Mississippi, and Mississippi Cottage Square in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. And additional support has come from big players in philanthropy like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation,

At the end of last year, Enterprise Community Partners claimed just $705,071 in assets, up from $570,648 in 2014. But it does accept and welcome donations and investments for its projects. In addition to the Gulf Coast, other geographic regions of interest for Enterprise are the Southeast, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, the Mid-Atlantic state, New York, Ohio, Northern and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest.