Using Impact Investing to Support Affordable Housing

February 25, 2014  • Zach Wenner

On February 12th, The Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers co-hosted an event to discuss how the philanthropic community can use impact investing to support affordable housing. The topic is of particular importance to the Greater Washington region where the end of both Fannie Mae’s and the Freddie Mac Foundation’s philanthropic activities will leave a significant gap in support for affordable housing efforts.

A scarcity of viable housing options for low income families, especially those living within our most expensive cities, continues to expose millions of Americans to conditions such as overcrowding, substandard housing quality and—particularly acute in these winter months—a lack of adequate heating. The affordable housing industry has helped to address this gap—providing opportunities for low and moderate income families to attain safe and affordable housing, and to do so in a way that promotes access to jobs, public transit, health care and education. The industry has supported young families, as well aging populations. And it has helped to shield residents from fluctuations in the housing markets that risk pricing families—and even entire communities—out of their homes.  

Panelists (listed below) shared the strategies of their organizations in mobilizing impact investments, both in direct support of affordable housing and as a tool to shepherd the participation of the capital markets. These models included Program Related Investment (PRIs) and Mission Related Investments (MRIs), loan guarantees and participation in structured funds. Panelists emphasized the low-risk nature of these investments, as well as the ease with which philanthropic organizations can become impact investors by leveraging external support, such as the Mission Investors Exchange, and tapping the community development field’s well-established intermediary infrastructure to facilitate such investments.    


Michael Bodaken, National Housing Trust

Allison Clark, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Warren Hanson, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund
Lori Chatman, Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Inc.
Maicie Jones, AARP Foundation