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Nonprofit of the Month: Arizona Housing Fund

Arizona Housing Fund (AZHF) was founded five years ago as a way to provide equity capital to fund more permanent housing units to our state. Since then, the fund has raised $2 million to aid in affordable local housing projects. Howard Epstein, Bank of America real estate executive and founder of Arizona Housing Fund, discusses how AZHF grants are helping to fund affordable housing projects for formerly homeless Arizonans, goals for the new year and its upcoming fall fundraiser.

What prompted the start of the nonprofit? In Arizona, there are approximately 10,000 people who are either living in emergency or transitional shelters, in a car or on the street, who need permanent housing right now. Through my involvement on nonprofit boards, I have been trying to solve the issue of homelessness in our community for decades. In 2019, I created the Arizona Housing Fund to help provide equity capital to fund more permanent housing units to our state. When I first began this effort, I wanted to see legislation that would add a $25 fee to all homes sold. However, I quickly learned that the chance of passing such legislation was extremely unlikely. The Arizona Housing Fund is a voluntary private sector solution to a growing problem. We ask real estate agents, title companies, notaries, buyers and sellers of homes (essentially anyone who is involved in the escrow process) to donate $25 for each deal closed. It’s the equivalent of a donation at the grocery store checkout. So far, we have raised $2 million and granted $1.35 million to eight nonprofits around the state for creative affordable housing projects. In many cases, our grant funding helps cover unexpected costs associated with construction cost increases. And while we are not the primary funder, we help these projects get across the finish line.

What is the greatest reward in being involved with Arizona Housing Fund? I feel rewarded in two ways – first, it is incredible to see how many companies, individuals and foundations have embraced this initiative and want to help solve the homelessness crisis in Arizona by getting involved. Second, it is extremely rewarding to see the Arizona Housing Fund come to life. Last month, we celebrated the ribbon-cutting ceremony for JoJo’s Place in Flagstaff, a former hotel that has been converted into 44 studio apartments for formerly homeless households – thanks to the hard work of the team at Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona. Residents will pay rent based on their income and will receive services from Catholic Charities Community Services to get back on their feet.

What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? I will flip that question and say the biggest opportunity we have is to have title companies and escrow companies add a checkbox to their escrow opening package that gives home buyers and sellers the opportunity to voluntarily donate $25 to the Arizona Housing Fund at the Arizona Community Foundation. This would provide an easy way for everyone buying and selling a home to check a box and help solve homelessness in Arizona.

What are your goals for this new year? In 2024, I look forward to continuing to bring new partners on board to grow our Fund. I also have the goal of working with the Arizona Housing Fund Advisory Committee to review and approving new grant funding for Arizona’s incredible nonprofit agencies that build and operate permanent affordable supportive housing, so more units can be constructed to meet the growing needs of our communities in Arizona and reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness.

How can readers help? Follow Arizona Housing Fund on social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) to stay updated on our efforts and visit to learn more and donate. Every dollar donated goes directly to funding more housing for those who are homeless in our state.

Does the nonprofit have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? Yes! This October we will be celebrating our five-year anniversary, and we are planning an online fundraising campaign to coincide with that milestone.

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