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Lessons from the Window of Opportunity Housing Initiative

Kimberly Burnett, Laurie Gould, and Jeffrey Lubell

Report

October 27, 2022

The MacArthur Foundation launched its Window of Opportunity (WOO) Initiative to address the increasingly critical loss of affordable rental housing. The Initiative employed a range of strategies to help preserve affordable rental units in multiple communities nationwide. Having committed $42.25 million in program related investments (PRIs) to 20 nonprofit housing developers working in at least 40 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, the Foundation asked Abt Associates and our partners to address whether and how the PRIs helped developers maintain and grow their affordable housing stock. As an unusually flexible source of equity-like capital, the PRIs could be used for organizational working capital or for predevelopment/bridge capital to be used for acquiring preservation properties in advance of developers obtaining permanent financing.

The evaluation found the PRIs improved organizations’ capacity, with outcomes including major capital investments in units and increases in staff capacity. Almost all WOO borrowers emerged from their loan terms in much stronger financial positions than when they entered them. The report includes a comparison with how other affordable housing developers fared who did not receive a MacArthur PRI.

Ultimately, we concluded that the entity-level investments facilitated significant affordable housing preservation and development. MacArthur’s borrowers preserved nearly 51,000 units during the term of their PRIs. Further, with access to the equity-like capital of a PRI, affordable housing developers could survive–and even thrive–in the aftermath of the major economic upheaval of the recession of 2007 to 2009.

POLICY BRIEF: Investing for Impact: Lessons from MacArthur Foundation’s Housing Preservation Initiative