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Affordable housing receives big boost from local philanthropy

SEPTEMBER 28, 2021 — The Community Foundation for a greater Richmond is pleased to announce a significant commitment to increasing affordable housing in the region with two new grant awards of $1 million each to Better Housing Coalition and Maggie Walker Community Land Trust (MWCLT). Funding will support construction of over 600 new affordable apartment and housing units in the region, as well as financial coaching and wrap-around support for residents.

The Community Foundation is highly focused on investing in long term solutions that close racial wealth gaps and provide opportunities for residents to achieve upward economic mobility. Its emphasis on housing is based on the belief that quality, affordable housing affects nearly every aspect of a person’s life and that it is fundamental to a thriving and economically competitive region. With this newest commitment, the Foundation and its donors have invested over $10 million to local housing efforts since 2018.

“While the Community Foundation has invested in housing for years, the Richmond Regional Housing Framework allowed us to align to something bigger and more consequential for our region – a collaborative action plan that calls on all residents, local government, business and philanthropy to unite around solutions that will make Richmond stronger with a variety of housing options for all,” said Sherrie Armstrong, CEO of the Community Foundation. “As a partner and catalyst in this work, we hope our grants can instill a sense of confidence and urgency for others to join us in investing their dollars as well.”

The grant to Better Housing Coalition is part of a $10 million campaign, which has also secured significant contributions from Altria and The Cabell Foundation. These gifts will leverage development of rental units and single-family homes for individuals who are at 40 to 60% of the average median income, as well as seniors, in Richmond, Chesterfield and Henrico.   

“We’re fortunate that elected officials, leaders of our local business, and philanthropic organizations are recognizing that affordable housing can help address social and racial equity disparities in our region in a significant way. By allocating the majority of this generous grant to capital for affordable housing, the Community Foundation will accelerate our ability to produce 1,000 additional units over the next three years,” said Greta Harris, President & CEO of Better Housing Coalition.

Established in 2016, Maggie Walker Community Land Trust is already considered among the top 10% of community land trusts in the country, having constructed 50 owner-occupied homes as of January 2021 and projecting 50 more in the next two years. Following a $1 million grant in 2018, this is the second large commitment from the Community Foundation to support the continued acquisition and subsidy of new properties that create permanently affordable home ownership opportunities for people of low- to moderate-income and who typically work in essential jobs like teachers or first responders.

“One of the most hopeful developments in recent years is far greater alignment of the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors—all leveraging their assets to meet the housing needs of our neighbors. The recent Community Foundation grant of $1M to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust is an excellent example,” said Laura Lafayette, Immediate Past Chair of MWCLT. “The City of Richmond provided 15 tax delinquent parcels to MWCLT, and the Community Foundation’s grant will support the development of 38 new, permanently affordable homes.  MWCLT will seek to recruit buyers of color for these units, as home ownership is a key element in any effort to close the racial wealth gap. The Community Foundation’s leadership on this front and its strategic generosity will change lives for generations to come.”

Through its model, homes are sold to eligible buyers while the trust retains ownership of the land, which creates a permanent subsidy and ensures that the homes will remain permanently affordable. MWCLT estimates that by 2060, 228 households will have been stably housed in these homes, securing the benefit of building wealth through ongoing home equity.

“The Community Foundation’s commitment to provide affordable housing for our most vulnerable neighbors is designed to be long term and sustainable, with more to come as we collaborate with other community organizations to support the economic development of our region,” said Victor Branch, President of Bank of America Richmond, Community Foundation board member and Community Impact Committee chairman.

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