Milwaukee Habitat receives transformational gift from MacKenzie Scott

Milwaukee Habitat gifted $5.75M to address affordable housing shortage in the city.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, along with Habitat for Humanity International, and 83 U.S. Habitat affiliate organizations, recently received $436 million in unrestricted giving from American author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Of that, Milwaukee Habitat received $5.75M. This transformational donation will substantially help further Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has equitable access to a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. 

“A gift of this magnitude is truly a blessing,” says Brian Sonderman, Executive Director at Milwaukee Habitat. “Ms. Scott’s tremendous generosity will be put to work right here in Milwaukee, empowering local families through affordable homeownership opportunities. We’re amazed and invigorated with this opportunity to serve more families in our city. We hope this gift will inspire others to join us in making a difference in communities most affected by the affordable housing shortage.”

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity breaks down the barriers to affordable homeownership for local families in need. Last week we kicked off our 2022 build season by raising the walls of two new, affordable homes in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. These, and other homes we’re building in the neighborhood, are being sold to first-time home buyers in need of affordable housing.

Milwaukee has a significant affordable housing shortage, which creates barriers to homeownership especially for families spending large portions of their income on rent. Currently 1 in 3 Milwaukee renters spend half or more of their income on housing. With this high cost of housing, the most common barriers families face when trying to become first-time home buyers are large down payments, unaffordable home prices and the inability to access home loans. 

Habitat International will use its $25 million portion of the donation to prioritize advocacy and programmatic efforts designed to dismantle systemic racism in housing. Specifically, the donation will allow Habitat to advocate for policy proposals and legislation that enable millions of people to access affordable housing through its Cost of Home advocacy campaign; increase Black homeownership in the U.S. by targeting current systemic barriers through a new initiative that will launch this summer; and leverage innovative capital investments that service communities of color.


Who is MacKenzie Scott?

  • A philanthropist and married mother of two, she acquired her wealth through her partnership with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
  • In May 2019, Ms. Scott signed the Giving Pledge. Since then, she has donated more than $8.5 billion to a range of causes.

How did this gift happen?

  • Over the past two years, Ms. Scott has focused her giving in four priority areas: advancing equity for underserved communities, reducing food insecurity, addressing high local poverty rates, and alleviating suffering for those hit hardest by the pandemic.
  • Ms. Scott does not accept unsolicited requests for funding. She and her team selected 84 of the more than 1000 Habitat affiliates to receive portions of the $436M gift. 

How will this gift be used?

  • Like all of the Habitat affiliates, we were surprised by this substantial gift – the largest single donation in our affiliate’s history. Our leadership team is developing strategic plans to maximize the impact of this transformational gift. Bottom line, this will allow us to serve even more local families in need of safe, affordable housing. 
  • Our goal to build 20 new homes in Harambee and repair 40 homes throughout the northwest side in 2022 will not be altered. As our team strategizes on how to most effectively use this gift, considerations of land acquisition, capacity and other key variables are being analyzed to determine how we can serve as many families as possible.