In 2021, Hester Street was commissioned by the Ford Foundation to create an archive of the history of Ford’s work supporting housing development and equitable disaster recovery in order to disseminate field-wide learnings from the Foundation’s efforts to center race, place, and power in housing justice, following the closure of their Just Cities & Regions (JCR) program.

Our team cataloged and evaluated the evolution of the Just Cities & Region program between 2017-2021 — Ford’s final phase of housing work & grantmaking — and additionally captured the overarching strategic lessons from the Foundation’s decades of impact. Released in March 2022, the “Race, Place and Power” report explores how the JCR program anchored race, place, and power in its strategy to tackle spatial inequality within the build environment, as reflected in land, housing, and development. 

Historically, Ford’s work in housing focused on fair housing and civil rights, eventually shifting to include investing in housing as individual assets and market interventions. Through integrated civic engagement strategies, donor organizing, network building, elevating BIPOC-led organizations, and “place-conscious” grantmaking aimed at scaling solutions across regions, JCR approached equitable housing as a right with the understanding that access to stable housing builds democratic participation and racial justice. To uplift this goal, the program built upon Ford’s previous work: critically examining the housing field’s over-reliance on financial markets/private funding and centering the expansion of social provision and access to drive systemic change, rather than merely targeting public policy reform in isolation. 

HST’s report included key field lessons such as decentering market-driven solutions, investing in base-building organizations, and implementing housing interventions with near- and long-term benefits for communities while balancing the work of building durable, civic power.