Avenue, a local nonprofit dedicated to building affordable homes and strengthening communities, has received a $1 million investment from JPMorgan Chase & Co. for its Social Impact Fund aimed at acquiring and preserving affordable housing in Houston. The fund was established in 2021 to maintain affordability at rental properties at a time when working families are increasingly cost burdened by rising housing costs.

“This investment comes at a critical time for our community, when many working families struggle financially under the weight of escalating housing costs,” said Mary Lawler, chief executive officer of Avenue. “The preservation of affordable homes helps to stabilize families and reduce stress, creating healthier residents and healthier communities.”

Avenue’s Social Impact Fund will enable the non-profit to purchase properties from apartment owners in Houston who are interested in selling their assets to a responsible new owner that will preserve affordability for long-term tenants. 

“For too long, low- and middle-income households have been left behind amid the rising cost of living, especially housing. JPMorgan Chase is supporting Avenue’s Social Impact Fund to address this problem by preserving affordable living and creating better futures for local families,” said Dorian Cockrell, Vice President of Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase.

The investment focuses on Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH,) which is Class B and Class C residential rental properties that are affordable but remain unsubsidized through any federal program. Rents are generally lower when compared to the regional housing market, providing an affordable option for low- and moderate-income households.

To date, Avenue has acquired three NOAH properties: La Casita Homes, an 84-unit apartment community offering affordable one and two-bedroom living in Houston’s Eastex Jensen neighborhood, Gale Winds, an 18-unit multifamily property offering affordable living in a desirable location in Houston’s Near Northside, and Las Brisas, a 68-unit development located in the greater Heights. Additional properties are in the acquisition pipeline.

The critical need for investment in naturally occurring affordable housing is evident in United Way of Great Houston’s latest ALICE report, which found that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 47 percent of Greater Houston Area families are struggling to make ends meet. That includes 33 percent of the nearly 1.6 million households in Harris County that qualify as ALICE which stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed. ALICE households represent working families in Houston whose household income is above the federal poverty level, but insufficient to cover basic necessities such as housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare.

Additionally, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University recently published a report revealing that Harris County and urban metros across the country are combating a shrinking supply of affordable and subsidized homes. The “Preserving Affordable Housing in Harris County” report, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, championed the use of public-private partnerships like Avenue’s Social Impact Fund to effectively develop and preserve NOAH properties. Unlike other major metropolitan areas, shrinking NOAH stock is amplified in Houston, where the market-driven approach to housing and land-use planning has resulted in a lower share of housing stock that relies on public subsidies.