If you know how to chip away at the housing crisis, a bank and an affordable housing developer might give you money to try it

Denver-based leaders at Wells Fargo and Enterprise Community Partners are accepting applications.
2 min. read
A new housing project at Laradon in Globeville. Nov. 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A national search for new ideas to address rising housing costs is being conducted from Denver.

Wells Fargo and affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners announced Wednesday they were accepting applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for their Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge, which will end this summer with six winning projects getting more than $2 million each.

The challenge is being led by Melinda Pollack, who directs national initiatives for Enterprise, and Ramsay Huntley, who heads clean technology and innovation philanthropy programs for Wells Fargo. Both are based in Denver.

"Denver is special," Pollack said. "It is a really collaborative and entrepreneurial space."

She said she expects applications for the competition to come from places with problems similar to Denver's convergence of skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant wages, and from rural and tribal areas with different challenges.

Communities across the country are struggling with "what is ultimately a housing affordability crisis,"  Huntley said.

The Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge is part of a $1 billion commitment by Wells Fargo to support housing affordability across the country by 2025. The bank turned to Enterprise, which has been involved in initiatives similar to the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge, for expertise. In addition to cash, the winners will get two years' technical assistance from Enterprise.

Enterprise and Wells Fargo are seeking projects that address three areas: construction techniques, financing  and services for households.

In the first two areas, Pollack said, "it's about efficiency and acceleration, moving faster to get to more and better outcomes, because the need is so great."

The third area addresses concerns about equity and economic stability and mobility, she said.

You can learn more about the application process here. The deadline for initial proposals is Feb. 19. Enterprise will help select up to 40 applicants to submit more detailed proposals, of which 15 will advance to a third and final round that includes a pitch competition.

Organizers have been spreading word ahead of opening the application process on Wednesday. Last week, Pollack said, a webinar about the project drew more than 2,000 participants.

Corrects that Melinda Pollack directs national initiatives for Enterprise.

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