In an effort to make housing more affordable in the San Francisco Bay Area, the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $8 million in late September to a local nonprofit that acquires, develops and manages affordable housing.
It was the second major gift that Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, made to a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on housing in the span of a month. A few weeks earlier, Scott had made a $20 million donation to the San Francisco Community Land Trust. Like other community land trusts, it’s a nonprofit that actually attempts to buy real estate for the purpose of creating more local affordable housing.
The average monthly rent for an apartment in San Francisco was over $3,300 as of July, according to RentCafe, an internet listing service for rental properties. That’s nearly three-fourths the average monthly earnings of a U.S. adult, CEIC data shows.
Befitting its gold rush-era origins, San Francisco home prices are prone to booming and busting, yet they nearly always attain the loftiest peaks during the boom years. Before the pandemic, San Francisco had established itself as even more unaffordable than Manhattan, but the city has struggled to weather remote work and the emptying of its downtown. And, although home prices have fallen in the Bay of late (down 9% year-over-year in September alone), they still far outpace the national norm, coming in at a whopping $1.26 million, per Zillow.
Scott’s donation to BRIDGE housing, which was founded in 1983, will allow the organization to build more affordable housing in the Bay Area, BRIDGE Housing President and CEO Ken Lombard tells Fortune.
“In order to further our efforts, it is important to raise alternative means of capital to move ahead with new projects,” he says. “Contributions like this truly put BRIDGE Housing in a better position to continue our efforts to attract investors, donors like MacKenzie Scott, and other financial partners to help solve the affordable housing crisis.”
BRIDGE Housing focuses on helping families that earn between 30% to 80% of the area median income (AMI). In the Los Angeles/Long Beach area, for example, affordable housing could cost between $737 and $2,160 for residents who earn between 30% to 80%, according to BRIDGE Housing.
In an effort to make housing more affordable, BRIDGE acquires properties and reduces income restrictions that can make it difficult for low-income families to find affordable housing. Recently, the organization purchased a 195-unit complex in the Bay Area that now has no income restrictions. The organization will convert a majority of these into affordable units for prospective residents who earn up to 80% of the AMI.
“This workforce housing typically serves teachers, police officers, health care workers, and others who earn too much to qualify for subsidized housing but often cannot afford to live close to their jobs in major metropolitan areas,” a BRIDGE Housing spokesperson tells Fortune.
Overall, BRIDGE Housing provides studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. About half of the homes serve families, while the remainder serves seniors, mixed-income individuals, and people who may have previously used public housing. The organization has consistently retained high occupancy rates, with a 96.1% average during the past five years.
“In the current economic environment, where the cost of capital and construction is high, it is increasingly challenging to develop ground-up projects,” he says. “The gift from MacKenzie Scott further enhances our ability to continue our efforts with ground-up construction as well as acquisitions, which will result in further increasing the stock of affordable units available to low-income families on the West Coast.”In 2023 alone, Scott, whose mission it is to give away a bulk of her fortune, has donated $100 million—and in total she has given more than $14 billion to more than 1,600 nonprofits since her 2019 divorce from Bezos, her Yield Giving page shows. Yet, she is still worth more than $33 billion, according to Forbes.