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.

The Foundation's Housing Program has made more than 450 grants and 60 program-related investments totaling $385 million.

SPECIAL NOTE: The MacArthur Foundation does not make grants or provide funds for direct housing assistance to individuals. It has come to our attention that a fraudulent email is being distributed asking individuals to apply for personal assistance from the Foundation. This email is not from the MacArthur Foundation and is a scam that is inappropriately using the Foundation’s name. MacArthur has nothing to do with this scam. Individuals should always be cautious in sharing their personal information with companies or individuals who they are not certain they can trust.


What MacArthur Funds

Over the last 15 years, the MacArthur Foundation has supported practice-driven, evidence-based, policy-focused efforts to make stable, high-quality, affordable housing available and sustainable for more families across the country. Through the foundation's Window of Opportunity: Preserving Affordable Rental Housing initiative, the How Housing Matters to Families and Communities research intiative, and policy efforts to foster pragmatic solutions to the nation's housing challenges. The Foundation has:

  • Supported nonprofit owners to increase construction and preservation of affordable rental housing;
  • Seeded rigorous research to understand the social and economic value of housing beyond shelter, and to inform sound, cost-effective policy solutions;
  • Developed innovative, pragmatic housing policy solutions to address key challenges driven by economic pressures and demographic trends; and
  • Helped to balance the goals of energy conservation and affordability through research, policy, and practice in “green” housing finance.

Our Legacy Strategy 

The Housing Program's legacy phase will end by 2020. The goal of the Housing Program during this phase is twofold.

First, we aim to secure a prominent place for rental housing on national, state and local policy agendas. To do so, we will support:

  • Organizations that provide the field with current, reliable data about the rental housing stock and who it serves
  • A new data collaborative among universities with housing-focused research centers
  • Nonprofit mission driven real estate companies to inform municipal, state and federal leaders about the regulatory and financial barriers to affordable rental housing

Second, the Foundation will support efforts to build momentum for the next generation of housing policy that is informed by Foundation supported research that demonstrates the critical value of housing in people’s lives. To do so, we will support:

  • Efforts to communicate and disseminate the research in a way that is accessible to wide audiences 
  • Engagement with those working in allied fields like education, health and economic opportunity
  • Cross-issue communities of practice

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

Updated May 2015