The Selection Process

Three Rounds. One Pitch Competition. Eight Judges. Six Extraordinary Grantees.

A woman standing at a white board reviewing work

Drawing 885 applications from 49 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the challenge signaled a profound interest in the opportunity to identify and implement new solutions that improve housing affordability.

Because housing challenges look different in rural areas, cities, the suburbs and tribal communities, the national call for proposals announced in January 2020 cast a wide net, inviting applications from nonprofit organizations and Tribally Designated Housing Entities, with for-profit companies eligible to participate in the challenge’s Housing Construction focus area.

We thank each organization that stepped up to participate in the challenge – especially as it unfolded amid the outbreak of Covid-19 and the unforeseen challenges that followed. We were humbled by all of the applicants’ commitment and perseverance as priorities were reevaluated and work plans shifted.

“With almost 900 organizations applying, we saw so many examples of commitment and a willingness to reframe our challenges and solutions.”
― Eileen Fitzgerald, Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy, Wells Fargo Foundation

The Review Process

Over the course of eight months, senior leaders from across Enterprise’s and Wells Fargo’s programs and business lines engaged in a highly competitive review process featuring two application rounds. Round 1 launched with a streamlined application to minimize the burden on applicants. With each stage of review, we asked contenders to delve more deeply into the story of their proposed ideas, showing how their innovations would advance one of the challenge’s three pillars.

The challenge also prioritized breakthrough ideas that 1) addressed racial disparities in housing affordability and promoted racial equity, and 2) incorporated green building strategies, healthy building practices, and climate resilience.

See What We Learned from Nearly 900 Proposals 

The Pitch Competition

HABC Pitch Day event

The selection process culminated in Round 3 with a two-day virtual pitch event, where 15 finalists had 10 minutes to present their idea to a panel of eight judges composed of affordable housing and community development experts from across the country.

The Final Six Grantees

On September 22, 2020, the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge announced the six grant winners selected to receive a $2 million grant plus $500,000 in technical assistance to turn their ideas into reality. Two winners were named in each of the challenge’s three focus areas:

Housing Construction:

Housing Finance:

Resident Services and Support:

Learn More about the Programmatic Pillars 

This final cohort of grantees represents a spectrum of breakthrough ideas for housing affordability, encompassing rural homeownership, carbon capture, equitable underwriting, community health care, the sharing economy, and trauma-informed care. From the forests of Washington state’s coastline to the five boroughs of New York City, the winning organizations reflect a diverse landscape of creative ideas in response to the myriad ways that the need for affordable housing is causing hardship and limiting economic mobility in communities nationwide. Transformative change in communities happens when the best ideas are paired with the right mix of resources and technical know-how, and the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge allows us to do that six times over.

Stay connected to follow the progress of our six housing innovators
A man gives a woman a flower in a grassy garden.