CALIFORNIA — American author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated $436 million to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its affiliates, including a handful of California organizations.
The Golden State has four Habitat for Humanity affiliates with organizations based in and around San Francisco, the Inland Valley, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
Scott's donation is the largest donation from the billionaire author since her 2019 pledge to give away the majority of her earnings. Her donation accounts for nearly 8 percent of the $325 million in donations that Habitat for Humanity International received in its 2020 fiscal year.
Scott's donation will increase the supply of affordable housing, especially in communities of color, according to Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International’s CEO.
“This incredibly generous gift will allow us to dramatically increase capacity and implement programs that will have a multi-generational impact on communities around the U.S. and our global mission for many years to come,” Reckford said. “With this donation, Habitat is well-positioned to meaningfully advocate for the systemic and societal changes needed to improve equitable access to affordable housing.”
His group received $25 million from Scott and her husband Dan Jewett. The remaining $411 million will be divided among Habitat's local affiliates.
"We could not be more excited to get the gift at a time when, in some ways, the state of housing affordability is the worst that it has been in modern times,"Reckford told The Associated Press.
With the funds, most local affiliates will launch projects in their communities while the international team will focus on broader advocacy and efforts to construct homes for working-class families.
“Even before COVID, we already had one in seven families paying over half their income on rent or mortgage,” Reckford told the AP. The last two years made that issue even worse, with many people seeking to buy larger homes to ride out the pandemic.
In California, the housing situation has only worsened in the most populous and perhaps most expensive state. While there don't seem to be enough homes to go around in the Golden State, prices for a single-family house continue to surge in California. The state has some of the priciest ZIP codes in the U.S., according to PropertyShark's "Most Expensive U.S. ZIP Codes in 2021."
February data from the California Association of Realtors showed that the statewide median home price for single family housing was $771,270, up 0.7 percent from January and up 10.3 percent from February 2021.
Year-to-date statewide home sales were down 8.3 percent in February.
But California's housing market continued to maintain a solid sales pace despite higher interest rates alongside inflation and uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine.
"The invasion of Ukraine has created geopolitical headwinds and pushed up inflation up a notch, which may keep mortgage rates elevated and cause the housing market to retreat amid the uncertainty,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Jordan Levine in a statement.
Homes in the U.S. are being snatched off the market at record prices even through winter, bucking the trend that generally sees slow market activity during the season, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HouseCanary Jeremy Sicklick told Business Wire. HouseCanary is a national brokerage well-known for its housing market and real estate evaluations.
"In November, we witnessed a nearly 15 percent decrease in net new property listings on the market compared to last year, coupled with a growing number of homes going into contract at elevated prices," Sicklick said. "For homebuyers across the country, we expect the shortage of homes for sale to extend well into 2022, setting us up for additional price growth in the spring."
According to an analysis released by the National Association of Realtors last month, U.S. home ownership climbed to 65.5 percent in 2020, with 72.1 percent of white Americans now owning their homes. Yet only 43.4 percent of Black Americans own homes, a proportion even lower than it was in 2010. Habitat for Humanity officials say they hope Scott’s gift will help reverse that trend.
“We have a great opportunity to continue to shape a narrative that’s inclusive, that’s diverse, that promotes equity,” Rice said. “And it’s not just the equitable access, because that then allows those families to build equity for generations to come. And that’s a very exciting opportunity for us as an organization.”
The Associated Press and Patch Editor Miranda Ceja contributed to this report.