Housing Grant Guidelines

Understand guideline and funding cycles

MacArthur publishes program guidelines to help applicants determine whether their idea for a grant fits within a particular grantmaking strategy. 

As a general rule, applicants should base this decision on three related criteria that appear in program guidelines: the topical focus addressed by the grantmaking strategy; the geographic area covered by the grantmaking strategy; and, finally, the type of funding (i.e., general operating support, research, program support, etc.) that supports the grantmaking strategy.

Like most strategic grantmaking foundations, the MacArthur Foundation considers funding only those applications that closely match the topical, geographic, and funding criteria for a specific grantmaking strategy.


Research increasingly shows that decent, stable, affordable housing contributes to strong families and vibrant communities. But the nation’s limited stock of affordable housing is dwindling and the supply of new affordable rental housing is not keeping up with demand. This undersupply disproportionately affects low-income households: among the poorest Americans, 80 percent pay more than a third of their income for rent. This means less to spend on food, healthcare and education. And now, more moderate- and middle-income households bear a similar burden. The national recession, led by a collapse in the housing market, has highlighted the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the structure and regulatory framework of the financial and housing sectors. While housing policy has historically put a premium on homeownership, a political consensus is emerging that affordable rental housing has an important place in a rebalanced national housing policy and that a healthy rental sector is vital for family and community stability.

MacArthur has invested more than $300 million in affordable housing, in grants and program-related investments — more than two-thirds since 2000.

What MacArthur Funds

The MacArthur Foundation supports practice-driven, evidence-based, policy-focused efforts to make stable, high-quality, affordable housing available and sustainable for more families across the country. Our grantmaking priorities are to:

  • Seed and disseminate rigorous research to understand the social and economic value of housing beyond shelter and to inform sound, cost-effective policy solutions
  • Develop innovative, pragmatic housing policy solutions to address key housing challenges driven by economic pressures and demographic trends
  • Help to balance the goals of energy conservation and affordability through research, policy, and practice in “green” housing finance; and
  • Seed rigorous research to explore the social and economic value of housing beyond shelter and to inform sound, cost-effective policy.
  • Support nonprofit owners to increase construction and preservation of affordable rental housing
  • Help balance the goals of energy conservation and affordability through research, policy, and practice
  • Explore the intersection between health and housing policies

Preserving Affordable Rental Housing

Questions about this grantmaking area can be addressed to Director of Program-Related Investments Debra Schwartz, Associate Director of Impact Investments Allison Clark, or Program Officer Mijo Vodopic.

MacArthur's $150 million Window of Opportunity: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing initiative seeks to preserve and improve affordable rental housing nationwide by showing that preserving affordable rental housing is a cost-effective way to extend past investments in housing; strengthen families and communities; and encourage a wide mix of partners to invest in and preserve affordable rental housing. The initiative aims to yield the evidence, models, momentum, and leadership needed to generate policy reforms that position the preservation of affordable rental housing as central to meeting the nation’s housing needs.

The Foundation provides grants and long-term, below-market loans to a portfolio of 25 large-scale, business-like, local, regional, and national nonprofit affordable housing owners in 37 states. MacArthur also supports specialized financing vehicles across the country and public sector-led preservation efforts in Chicago, New York City, and 12 other states and localities; and fund policy analysis, data collection, and expert assistance to encourage investment in rental housing preservation and foster sound federal, state, and local policies. In addition, the Foundation is making a limited set of investments in energy efficiency standards, regulations and new resources and the multi-family rental housing sector. To date, Foundation resources have supported the preservation of more than 80,000 affordable homes across the country.

See Recent Grants for grants and program-related investments awarded.

The Foundation is no longer accepting proposals for work in housing preservation.

Housing Policy Research

Questions about this grantmaking area can be addressed to Program Officer Ianna Kachoris, or Program Officer Mijo Vodopic.

Compelling findings from a range of fields are beginning to show critical links between housing and other issues of national policy concern. In 2008, the Foundation launched a five-year $25 million How Housing Matters to Families and Communities initiative that includes a competitive research program and an interdisciplinary research network. The intent is to produce evidence of whether and how stable, affordable housing has a positive impact on education, employment, health, and other social and economic outcomes. Early findings show that stable, high-quality housing improves school performance, diminishes health problems for both kids and adults and lessens psychological stress.

If this body of work demonstrates with rigorous and robust evidence that housing—and particular housing characteristics and program interventions—have positive effects, government agencies will be able to integrate housing and program delivery, leverage resources to achieve improved outcomes, and realize efficiencies and cost savings.

The competitive research program has awarded more than $17 million to 34 different research projects.

See Recent Grants for grants awarded.

The Foundation is not accepting proposals for housing policy research projects.

Fostering Pragmatic Policy Solutions to the Nation’s Housing Challenges

Questions about this grantmaking area can be addressed to Program Officer Ianna Kachoris, or Program Officer Mijo Vodopic.

While research is reinforcing the important role that high-quality, stable housing plays in people’s lives, the nation’s housing finance and delivery system has faltered. The recent financial crisis has revealed significant flaws, and housing market weaknesses continue to stifle economic recovery. Our dynamic society will witness dramatic demographic shifts in the coming decades: it is growing older, family structure is shifting, and income stability and growth are less certain for more American households. Yet pragmatic solutions have been absent from the debate, particularly about what kind of housing the next generation will need and how it will be provided.

To develop sensible, actionable policy solutions that address both near-term and long-term challenges, the Foundation is supporting the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission.

The Commission comprises leaders representing a range of political and industry perspectives, but who share a commitment to putting national housing policy on a sustainable path forward. It is seeking input from the public and leading thinkers, allowing ideas to emerge from the field and inform the Commission’s deliberations and activities.

In early 2013, the Commission released consensus recommendations on the most effective ways to meet the nation’s housing needs. In 2014, it will provide additional analysis, respond to inquiries, and promote its policy recommendations.

Inquiries about the Bipartisan Housing Commission should be addressed directly to its Director Pamela Hughes Patenaude of the Bipartisan Policy Center.


Updated May 2014