Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has made a $5 million donation to the Houston Community Land Trust, a “transformative” gift that officials said will help fund new affordable housing opportunities and pilot programs in the city.

The overview

Scott's donation, announced by the HCLT in an Oct. 16 news release, will help the organization develop pilot programs that will have focuses outside of the traditional single-family home model, including testing new options for multifamily affordable rentals and commercial spaces, officials said. Meanwhile, the HCLT will also continuing fundraising efforts to expand its traditional single-family Homebuyer Choice Program.

The background

Founded in 2018, the HCLT works to provide assistance to prospective homeowners—particularly within communities of color—who make under 80% of the area median income level, including up to $150,000 in help with down payments and closing costs. The trust has helped 182 individuals and families secure permanent, affordable housing since its inception, according to the release.

The context

The median home sales price in Harris County as of September was $315,000, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, and housing affordability challenges are driving more people to seek rental homes. Meanwhile, increases in rent have been outpacing increases in wages in Houston since 2015, according to a 2023 report by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, resulting in a majority of renting households being considered cost burdened, meaning they spend 30% or more of their household income on housing.

What they're saying

“With this substantial grant, HCLT will be able to expand the use of the CLT model outside of traditional single-family home ownership," HCLT Executive Director Ashley Paige Allen said in a statement. "We are excited to partner with several community organizations and housing experts to develop these projects as we continue our commitment to increasing affordable housing throughout the city.”