Last October, 10 problem solvers from across the country came to Washington, DC, to share their proposals to address some of their communities’ toughest housing challenges. They were all semi-finalists in Phase Three of the Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge (The Challenge) and had come to pitch their innovative ideas connecting affordable housing with education and economic mobility.
We had all been looking forward to this day for months. The semi-finalists pitched ideas to a panel of experts comprised of Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Communities team, Fannie Mae executive leaders, an Expert Advisory Panel, and other interested stakeholders. Each pitch conveyed a deep understanding of the challenges facing their respective communities and the teams showed creativity in their ideas and solutions.
Every idea showed real promise, which made the final decisions very difficult. Nevertheless, five ideas stood out as opportunities for Fannie Mae to partner in areas that complemented our priorities for increasing the supply of and access to affordable housing. The five contract awardees are: Build Up, Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation, Guilford County Schools, and UPD Consulting.
Inspiration Behind the Innovation Challenge
From the outset of the Sustainable Communities Partnership and Innovation Initiative, Fannie Mae has been inspired by Purpose Built Communities, a 10-year-old non-profit organization committed to transforming neighborhoods by ensuring that quality mixed-income housing is located in communities where families have access to equitable cradle-to-college education, enriching community wellness programs, and economic opportunities. Through their work helping local leaders launch neighborhood revitalization projects in 27 communities across the country, Purpose Built Communities has demonstrated that it is possible to lessen the root causes of intergenerational urban poverty by transforming distressed neighborhoods into healthy ones. These local efforts depend on partnerships across housing, education, health, and other sectors to create large-scale change. Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Communities Initiative created the Innovation Challenge to help find new partnerships between housing and other sectors to make the kind of lasting change that Purpose Built Communities generates.
The third phase of The Challenge sought ideas at the intersection of affordable housing, education, and economic mobility. Affordability is one of the greatest barriers to housing stability and forces individuals and families to choose between universal needs, such as saving for emergencies and investing in educational opportunities. Such tradeoffs can jeopardize a family’s financial security and place them at greater risk of housing instability, including forced and frequent moves or even homelessness, which negatively affects educational outcomes for school-age children. Data show that children who remain in their homes during the school year are twice as likely to do better in school compared to children who have to move during the school year.
We recognize the inextricable connections between housing, education, and economic mobility and the fact that these issues must be addressed comprehensively to produce positive, lasting change. The Phase Three contract awardees do just that. Each project reflects an understanding that when housing affordability, education, and economic mobility are addressed holistically, it can lead to healthy, thriving communities. We invite you to read about our contract awardees.
Opportunities like The Challenge are good ways to identify and elevate solutions to help solve complex issues in affordable housing. The Innovation Challenge to date has generated more than 500 ideas targeting areas where affordable housing connects with jobs, health and wellness, and education, and it has yielded 13 new contract awardees.
The Importance of a Collaborative Mindset
One of the key take-aways from the Innovation Challenge has been the power of collaboration. Fannie Mae is committed to collaborating with others and supporting projects that create affordable homes in areas of economic opportunity, where good schools, quality health care, and reliable transportation are all within reach. Purpose Built Communities is also aligned with this work, as its mission is keenly focused on revitalizing communities and creating pathways to prosperity for the lowest-income residents.
Fannie Mae and Purpose Built Communities are excited to continue working in conjunction with local organizations to address these intractable issues facing communities across the country. We congratulate the Phase Three awardees and applaud the many community-based organizations dedicated to taking on the toughest issues and making a difference.
VP of Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Communities Initiative
CEO of Purpose Built Communities
January 15, 2020