Winners of Nationwide Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge Named

Six housing innovators receive a total of $12 million in grants to create housing affordability solutions across the U.S.
Sep 22, 2020 10:35 AM ET
Press Release

COLUMBIA, Md. and SAN FRANCISCO, September 22, 2020 /3BL Media/ – Although the housing challenges facing millions of Americans often seem intractable, organizations from across the U.S. are collaborating to deliver fresh, innovative and scalable ideas to create housing affordability solutions with support from Enterprise Community Partners and Wells Fargo

Through the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge, a nationwide competition that began in January 2020, six winning organizations will each receive $2 million in grants and two years of technical assistance valued at $500,000 to bring innovative concepts to market. Winning breakthrough ideas include building more equitable, healthier and resilient homes that radically reduce carbon emissions, re-engineering the affordable housing delivery system, and rethinking community reentry by building dignity through a home.

“Housing affordability is directly tied to racial equity, and both are urgent issues fundamentally impacting every community in our country. That is what makes the Breakthrough Challenge so important right now,” said Priscilla Almodovar, chief executive officer at Enterprise Community Partners. “We’re thrilled to support our grantees and the next generation of housing solutions through these six visionary proposals. Enterprise is incredibly grateful for the generous financial resources and tremendous expertise brought by the Wells Fargo team throughout the competition.”

With three focus areas — housing construction, housing finance, and resident services and support — the competition drew close to 900 applications from 49 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. After two application rounds, 15 finalists were invited to offer a detailed application proposal and present a 10-minute virtual pitch to an independent panel of judges composed of leading national affordable housing and community development experts. Two winners were chosen from each focus area.

“Too often good ideas are overlooked because they need expertise and resources to bring them to scale,” said Nate Hurst, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We are delighted to join Enterprise Community Partners to engage creative innovators with know-how, technical skill, and imagination, who are now awarded catalytic funding to transform their housing affordability ideas into real solutions on the ground.”

The Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge is part of Wells Fargo’s $1 billion commitment to support housing affordability solutions nationwide by 2025.

The six organizations that will receive $2.5 million awards each and their breakthrough ideas are:

Housing Construction

  •  cdcb | come dream. come build. (Texas): MiCASiTA is a unique off-the-shelf environmentally sustainable, disaster-resilient modular homeownership innovation designed for rural families across South Texas and more communities struggling with persistent poverty throughout the United States. Reimagining affordable housing delivery, MiCASiTA marks a departure from a one-size-fits-all model to a system that empowers people of color with modest incomes to choose and design their own homes to advance wealth-building, protect the environment and strengthen vulnerable neighborhoods. 

  • Forterra NW (Washington): Prototyping Modular Cross-Laminated Timber to Re-engineer the Affordable Housing Supply Chain brings together tribes, communities of color, forest conservationists, architects and more to replace conventional construction technologies that rely on stick framing, concrete and steel with a modular cross-laminated timber prototype. Propelled by community engagement, the new building system promotes responsibly harvested forests, promising to radically lower the cost of construction, create needed rural jobs, and mitigate the dangers of climate change.

Housing Finance

  • Center for NYC Neighborhoods (New York): Underwriting for Good aims to rewrite who gets to be a homeowner in the U.S. by dramatically increasing the amount of credit flowing to families of color with modest means. Harnessing the power of financial technology (fintech), the tool will affirmatively address racial inequity and reduce the racial wealth gap through at-scale, nondiscriminatory lending and the creation of a new automated underwriting system with the potential to secure an equitable recovery from COVID-19. When brought to scale, the tool will enable access to credit for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of borrowers of color who will gain the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership.

  • Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi): Health + Housing seeks to create groundbreaking value propositions for residents as well as health care payors by demonstrating the benefits of investing in affordable housing at scale. The model aims to promote agency and equity among residents in a region where communities of color have faced historic barriers to health care, by anchoring communities with access to healthy, affordable homes linked with culturally competent preventative health care services.

Resident Services and Support

  • Impact Justice (California): The Homecoming Project revolutionizes reentry housing by pairing individuals returning from prison with people who have a room available in their home to live as part of a family and neighborhood, while receiving individualized support and services to help regain their dignity and rebuild their new lives. Inspired by Airbnb and the sharing economy, the program aims to reduce homelessness among formerly incarcerated people, increase the quality and availability of affordable housing, and strengthen the financial stability of homeowners at risk of being forced out of their neighborhoods by gentrification and other economic forces.

  • Preservation of Affordable Housing (Ohio, Massachusetts, Missouri): Designing Trauma-Resilient Communities reimagines affordable housing through the lens of trauma-informed care and its core principles: safety, trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment. The innovation aims to move the industry from a compliance mindset to a resilient-communities approach, centered on the premise that affordable housing exists to serve residents. It envisions a more equitable model for affordable housing that reduces evictions; improves resident and staff retention; promotes health through physical design; and leads to helping residents gain the resiliency to pursue and realize their hopes and goals.

For more information on the competition, as well as the finalists and their winning proposals, visit the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge website.

About Enterprise 

Enterprise is a proven and powerful nonprofit that improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable and connected to opportunity. As a social enterprise, we bring together the nationwide know-how, policy leadership, partners, donors and investors to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. Over more than 35 years, Enterprise has created 662,000 homes, invested more than $52.9 billion and touched millions of lives. Join us at www.enterprisecommunity.org. | Twitter: @EnterpriseNow.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.97 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,300 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 31 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 266,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 30 on Fortune’s 2020 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and more information on the company’s overall corporate responsibility are available at Wells Fargo Stories and www.wellsfargo.com/impact. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

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Chris Hammond
+1 (415) 222-4106