San Francisco Donors Have a New Way to Invest in Affordable Housing

San Francisco Donors Have a New Way to Invest in Affordable Housing

December 11, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF) and the San Francisco Foundation (SFF) today announced the launch of the “Home for Good Fund,” which allows individual donors to help San Francisco families find and keep affordable homes. The Fund is seeking to raise $25 million from donors, and in turn loan the funds to community developers to expand much-needed affordable housing in the city.

There are three ways to invest in the Home for Good Fund: 1) existing donors at the San Francisco Foundation can recommend a portion of their donor advised fund (DAF) be invested in the Fund; 2) donors with DAFs at other institutions or their own foundations can make a grant to SFF to be invested in the Fund; or 3) interested individuals can open a DAF at SFF to be invested in the Fund. The Home for Good Fund is designed to invest in affordable housing through the HAF, a nonprofit affordable housing lender that has deployed more than $200 million since 2017 to speed up the delivery of affordable homes in San Francisco.

“The San Francisco Foundation has supported the Housing Accelerator Fund since its earliest days,” said SFF’s CEO Fred Blackwell. “They have been incredibly effective problem solvers on behalf of affordable housing in our hometown, and we are proud to partner with them on this new venture. We are living through times when philanthropy can really rise to meet the moment, and I hope individual donors will join us in doing that through this new fund.”

The Housing Accelerator Fund works with community partners and the City to identify and acquire existing affordable housing at risk of purchase by speculative developers, as well as underutilized land that can be transformed into new homes. HAF will use the Home for Good Fund to make short-term bridge loans to community developers. This allows those developers to buy buildings quickly, with less regulatory expense and hassle than if they used upfront public financing.

But the public sector’s role remains critical: once the building purchase and rehab work are done, the City repays the bridge loan on behalf of the developer. This is the key to creating permanent affordability. The HAF can then re-invest the capital to benefit multiple projects during the loan term. At the end of the term, the grants will be returned to the contributing donor advised funds, to either reinvest or redirect to other philanthropic priorities identified by the donors.

“As we continue to build and develop affordable homes during these trying times, there is always a need for expanded resources as we push to deliver on our housing milestones,” said Eric Shaw, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. “We are committed to our philanthropic and civic collaborators and thankful for their partnership as we work together towards a more equitable San Francisco.”

To inaugurate the Home for Good Fund, the Housing Accelerator Fund and the San Francisco Foundation partnered with Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, and his wife Ranee Lan, a philanthropist and community leader, who have long been concerned about making San Francisco an easier place to live for families across all income tiers, from those who qualify for housing assistance programs to middle income families, such as teachers and EMTs, who struggle with heavy rent burdens.

The Housing Accelerator Fund identified a suitable property that could provide homes for such families. Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a nonprofit community developer serving over 5,800 people, had purchased 921 Howard Street in the SoMa neighborhood in 2009, and created plans to replace the parking lot, billboard, and small commercial buildings currently occupying the site with more than 200 affordable homes. Unfortunately, the recession’s economic impact on local government stalled this transformative project’s implementation. Seeing a great opportunity to benefit their community, Liew and Lan jumpstarted the project through a $5.8 million loan to the HAF, made via their donor advised fund. They followed with a generous grant of $1.5 million to ensure the project’s success. The HAF used the funds to refinance TNDC’s existing acquisition loan with a new loan that carried a much lower interest rate, significantly reducing TNDC’s carrying costs. And the momentum created through the refinancing led within the year to successful permanent funding applications at the state and local level. TNDC expects to start construction in March 2021.

“As we continue to address the need for more affordable homes and the consequences of long-standing economic and racial disparities in housing, it’s essential to keep up the momentum of projects like 921 Howard Street,” said Katie Lamont, Director of Housing Development at TNDC. “The Housing Accelerator Fund is a powerful example of how organizations and donors can come together to build momentum and meet the needs of our neighbors and city. We are thankful to work with HAF and utilize its combined expertise and experience to build more affordable homes and make sure more people have the opportunity to thrive.” TNDC is now assembling the final pieces of financing for 921 Howard and is poised to begin construction.

“We are so grateful to pioneering donors for partnering with us — now more than ever we need flexible philanthropic capital like this to pioneer bold housing solutions,” said HAF’s CEO Rebecca Foster. To date, the Housing Accelerator Fund has helped to secure over 1,100 permanently affordable homes for San Francisco, through a combination of new construction projects like 921 Howard Street and 833 Bryant Street, and the protection of existing affordable housing, like residences acquired through the City’s Small Sites Program. In November, the Fund closed.

Donors Jeremy Liew and Ranee Lan encourage others to join them by making a contribution to SFF to be invested in the Home for Good Fund. “One solution to affordable housing is more supply. We want to make sure that everyone who makes the City such a vibrant community can afford to keep their families here,” said Liew & Lan. “Unlocking the construction of new homes for 200 families who can now afford to stay in the City, and to do so for less than $36,000 per home in donations and interest free loans, is incredibly high leverage. We urge those who have benefited from the last two decades of San Francisco’s growth to join us and make a contribution to this fund.”

Donors who are interested in participating in the new fund can reach out to Ruben Orduña at SFF or to Rebecca Foster at the HAF, using the contact information below.

San Francisco Foundation
Ruben Orduña
Chief of Philanthropy
rorduna[at]sff.org

San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund
Rebecca Foster
Chief Executive Officer
rfoster[at]sfhaf.org

About The San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund

The San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund is committed to the preservation and expansion of quality affordable housing for economically disadvantaged individuals and households. An innovative nonprofit public-private partnership, HAF works with the city of San Francisco, local foundations, private lending institutions, and corporations to provide powerful new financing tools to ensure that San Francisco remains vibrant, equitable, and inclusive for all. Visit us at www.sfhaf.org.

About the San Francisco Foundation
The San Francisco Foundation is committed to a Bay Area where everyone can get a good job, live in a safe and affordable home, and exercise their political voice. The foundation advances its work through grantmaking, partnerships with donors, policy advocacy, and impact investing.

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