The wide-spread and wide-scale destruction to homes, community organizations, and businesses in the wake of a major disaster cannot be overstated.

All across the United States, countless communities have been faced with the daunting task of rebuilding. Federal, state and local leaders, planning and housing authorities, utility companies, insurance agents, and property owners are faced with the challenge of balancing the need to quickly get displaced families back in their homes while assessing long-term sustainability land-use issues and ensuring that rebuilding practices are meeting the most up-to-date building codes for resiliency and mitigation standards.

  • Special populations, including low-income families and seniors, individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, are at an even greater risk of being displaced from their homes for a protracted period of time.
  • Working and middle-class families whose homes are severely damaged in a disaster face the real threat of entering into a cascading cycle of poverty due to the overwhelming hardship of being temporarily displaced and the crushing demands of financing the rebuild of their homes and small businesses.
Homes here were rebuilt as part of the Rebuilding Union Beach Project following Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Kevin Chu + Jessica Paul LLP 3 (

Innovative Practices

Philanthropy can implement and/or support programs such as:

  • Temporary and permanent housing for vulnerable populations;
  • Affordable housing solutions;
  • Modular home demonstration projects;
  • Counseling centers for homeowners to understand their rights, grants and financing available to them, how to choose a licensed contractor, etc.
  • Gap funding and funding to support the work of the Long Term Recovery Groups which pay for essential building components of homes but only after all other resources have been exhausted (including insurance claims, federal and state aid, and FEMAFederal Emergency Management Agency grants);
  • Case Management and Unmet Needs Committees;
  • Community-wide education programs;
  • Research, analysis, and development of a Housing Recovery Plan for the community or region.

What Funders Are Doing

The following are examples of innovative practices and grants that philanthropic organizations have supported, developed and/or implemented related to housing.

The following grants supporting housing are from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund:

  • Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership received $100,000 to mitigate the COVID-19 impact on the physical, mental and financial well-being of vulnerable residents by providing financial housing support, a safe and stable housing environment and supportive resources.
  • Enterprise Community Partners received $250,000 to provide a quick inflow of cash grants to four to five partners in New Orleans, Miami and Georgia, to bridge the public funding available to individuals and housing providers, make up for shortfalls that emergency government allocations cannot fill and in some cases, help pay for new or increased staffing of housing providers to assist residents with accessing public and private funding and other available support. Additionally, Enterprise will provide tools and training to support the long-term viability and sustainability of 36 housing providers who serve almost 40,000 low-income residents as the company and its communities recover from the effects of the pandemic.
  • The Equity Alliance was awarded $40,000 to 1) educate residents about the homeowner, renter and COVID-19 rights, 2) hold bad actors and officials accountable, 3) connect residents to helpful and legitimate sources of information and financial help to deal with tornado recovery and coronavirus and 4) build the power to ensure emergency relief funds are distributed equitably so the recovery increases the generational wealth and well-being of north Nashville’s Black community.
  • Schott Foundation/Loving Communities Response Fund was awarded $75,000 to support 15 people-of-color-led grassroots organizations with $5,000 mini-grants for food, rental assistance and emergency care. One grant of $5,000 can provide shelter for 10-15 families, food for 200 families and more. The sub-grants will be funded rapidly to provide emergency support for vulnerable communities.
  • Solita’s House was awarded $100,000 to prevent homelessness resulting from COVID-19 related income loss/reduction in the Tampa Bay area.

Other grants related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Other grants related to housing include:

  • In 2020, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee gave $2,500 to the College Hills Church of Christ to assist the community of Lebanon families requesting support for food, clothing, housing and short-term financial assistance following the March tornadoes.
  • In 2019, the Wells Fargo Foundation donated $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Area for an affordable housing development in Kissimmee that will provide new single-family homes and renovations to existing homes. The grant also will support collaborative outreach with existing residents and businesses to help the neighborhood thrive. In addition, it will help address the high demand for affordable housing options in the area and aid in responding to the influx of new residents following Hurricane Maria.
  • The Houston Area Urban League received $85,000 from the Annenberg Foundation in 2018 for the Veteran Housing and Fair Housing Program’s disaster recovery efforts, providing housing assistance for veterans and their families affected by natural disasters.
  • In 2018, the Lost Tree Village Charitable Foundation donated $12,500 to Housing Partnership, Inc. of Riveria Beach, Florida to rehabilitate one of six units at the village for change, which was rendered inhabitable by Hurricane Irma.

Key Takeaways

  1. Philanthropies nationwide have helped hundreds of communities rebuild in the wake of a disaster.
  2. Philanthropy has the opportunity to take the long-view and promote smarter, resilient and more sustainable building practices that not only help communities recover but improve outcomes around building resiliency in future disasters.
  3. Philanthropy can educate its community on the financial resources available for rebuilding and the criteria and parameters surrounding the use of these monies.
  4. Working in partnership with government, social justice leaders, environmentalists, urban planners, long term recovery groups, and case managers, philanthropies can ensure a fair, just, equitable and resilient recovery for all citizens.
  5. Grantmakers can provide gap funding and critical unmet needs funding.

Listen to Enterprise Community Partners Resiliency Speakers Series: Resident Engagement for Seniors During Disasters

Further Reading