A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Housing Trust Funds: A Step After Housing First

Can we actually find affordable housing for everyone?  What is philanthropy’s role?

Philanthropy has played a critical role in promoting and investing in Housing First – an approach that removes eligibility requirements to housing – because we know that having a home is key to stability.

But for millions, even an affordable rental apartment is still inaccessible in the United States.  How can we actually find affordable housing for everyone?  What is philanthropy’s role in that process?  Philanthropy, meet housing trust funds.

Established by state, county, or city governments, housing trust funds provide dedicated sources of funding that support the creation and preservation of affordable housing.  These funds are becoming more popular, in part because the model is flexible and revenue streams are not tied to annual budget allocations, ensuring a sustained and focused effort to make housing accessible.  They are also effective, bringing in millions of dollars for affordable housing that will be here for years to come.

Through the housing trust fund model and without a large investment, funders have a unique opportunity to leverage their existing work to end homelessness.

How you can engage as a funder?

  • Partner with the housing trust fund in your area.

As part of its Housing Trust Fund Project, the Center for Community Change maintains information on all existing housing trust funds.  Each fund determines how money is distributed and who is eligible for funding, so schedule a meeting with the administrators in your area to learn more about their approach.  Share your observations and data.  Reports from other housing trust funds may shed light on lessons learned and best practices that can be adapted to your community.


Map from Center for Community Change

  • If you don’t have a housing trust fund in your area, start the conversation.

If your community doesn’t already have a housing trust fund, take the lead and convene key stakeholders.  Assess the needs and available resources in your community.  Who would the fund serve?  Where would the funding come from?  Who would administer the trust?  Discuss the benefits of a housing trust fund in your area and the steps you would need to take to launch such a program.  Does the fund need to be created by resolution, ordinance, or legislation?  Sample documents can jumpstart this conversation, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when working on a proposal.

  • Support a housing trust fund.

Revenue for housing trust funds comes from many different sources.  For example, Boston’s Housing Trust Fund began a program in the 1980s that linked commercial construction and affordable housing.  Since then, Boston has brought in more than $81 million in fees from large commercial construction projects for 6,000 affordable housing units.  The Dade County Homeless Trust in Florida raises its money from a 1% restaurant tax on food and beverages, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocations, and other public and private contributions.  The restaurant tax alone brings in nearly $14 million a year for affordable housing.

Although they are not typically designed as public-private partnerships, housing trust funds can also be a repository for private donations.  As a funder, you can also support the creation of a task force to evaluate the fund’s effectiveness, research to identify new revenue sources, or other complementary initiatives that strengthen the fund’s overall impact.

By engaging with a housing trust fund in your area, you can elevate philanthropy’s critical voice and leverage your resources.  We know that when philanthropy and government are aligned, our impact increases exponentially.

Learn more about the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, here.


We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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