United Way Commits $10M to Housing for All People

North Riverside CDC Board Members Henry Scott and Shirley Thomas; Kay Ehas, GWJax; James Ellout and Melanie Patz, United Way; and Gloria McNair, GWJax

Groundwork Jacksonville was honored to be part of the United Way of Northeast Florida’s announcement of $10 million to improve the Jacksonville ecosystem for housing ownership and affordable housing opportunities. The commitment represents a portion of the historic $20 million gift that billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated to United Way in December 2020.

“As we celebrate our 100th year of supporting this community, United Way of Northeast Florida is proud to make this $10 million commitment to help make it easier for our neighbors to access quality housing that meets their financial needs,” said Melanie Patz, president and CEO, United Way of Northeast Florida. “Making meaningful progress toward a more inclusive housing ecosystem for all means joining together with a group of committed, passionate and effective partners, holding ourselves accountable to find transformative solutions and supporting the direction of community members leading improvements in their neighborhoods. We recognize no one funder can solve this challenge alone, and we look forward to taking steps together with our partners to create long-term, sustainable change.” (Watch Video)

The $10 million commitment will be distributed across three areas of funding:
• Preservation ($4 million): working to reduce the impact of heirs’ property issues in North Riverside and the Historic Eastside; repairing existing homes to support residents remaining in their homes.
• Infill development ($5 million): creating a loan fund for developers to help catalyze new construction of single-family and multi-family units and the acquisition and rehabilitation of single family homes in urban neighborhoods. The loan fund will be managed by one or more CDFIs.
• Nonprofit and CDC capacity ($1 million): boosting capacity of existing nonprofits and CDCs working to help homeowners remain in their homes and to help owners/renters find affordable options in North Riverside, Historic Eastside, and Northside.

United Way is in the process of engaging partners and grantees for these three funding areas, including existing trusted partners as well as other leading organizations in the housing space. The funding areas were determined with United Way’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which met for six months from January to June. Groundwork’s Gloria McNair sat on the Task Force along with representatives from United Way, Florida Blue, CSX Transportation, Jacksonville Jaguars, LISC Jacksonville, LIFT Jax, Ability Housing, Vestcor Companies, Jax Community Land Trust, Fifth Third Bank, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Regency Centers, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Modern Cities. The Task Force was chaired by Mari Kuraishi, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Aundra Wallace, CEO of JAXUSA.

This builds on the $1 million investment that United Way made in early 2023 to support neighborhood-based programs that rehabilitate owner-occupied homes and resolve ownership issues for inherited properties in Lackawanna, Mixon Town, North Riverside and the Historic Eastside. Progress to date in partnership with Groundwork Jacksonville, the North Riverside CDC, LISC Jacksonville, LIFT Jax, and Historic Eastside CDC includes:
• Completing 30 owner-occupied home repairs across North Riverside and Historic Eastside; and
• Serving more than 215 clients in estate planning and probate litigation for heirs’ properties in North Riverside and Historic Eastside.

Ms. Shirley Thomas, president of the North Riverside CDC shared the significance of the North Riverside Home repair program to the residents of her neighborhood. “As a long-time resident and CDC leader, I can tell you that this program repairs more than just homes. It is helping to renew community pride and hope for the future of our neighborhood. We are encouraging community stewardship and empowering neighbors to help neighbors.”

Helping our neighbors become homeowners and helping existing homeowners stay in their houses are critically important avenues to building generational wealth for underserved communities in Jacksonville. According to the 2023 ALICE Report, nearly 40% of Northeast Florida households fall under the ALICE threshold; additionally, 147,200 households (38%) are currently on the Jacksonville Housing Authority’s waitlist for subsidized housing. Jacksonville’s affordable housing crisis is complex and requires a multi-faceted solution from a group of committed partners.