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The Wells Fargo Foundation Announces $20 Million Innovation Challenge Grant Designed for Entrepreneurs

Jessica Abo sits down with the President of the Wells Fargo Foundation to discuss the company's commitment to tackling the country's housing crisis and why they're calling on entrepreneurs for help.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jon Campbell strongly believes that America cannot afford unaffordable housing. The Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Relations at Wells Fargo says that to date, "the company has put millions of dollars into philanthropy around housing, but it's primarily been on home ownership. We're at a point where we want to pivot, because this problem is so much larger than just ownership."

Campbell says our country is facing a housing crisis. "The cost burden of housing in this country is changing very rapidly. Over 30 percent of Americans today pay over 30 percent of their income for housing each month. A subset of that are almost 18 million people paying over 50 percent of their own income for housing costs ... those people are sacrificing other important parts of their life, their health, their food and their education." 

For Campbell, this issue is personal. "It's not someone else's problem. It's each of our problems. The way I think about why it's my problem is because people I depend upon in the community that I live in, whether it be firefighters, police officers, teachers or other everyday heroes, they've been priced out of the communities many of us live in and they're having to commute two and a half hours to get the work." Campbell shared several ways the country can create more affordable housing when he sat down with Jessica Abo at the Social Innovation Summit in Los Angeles. 

While the company is committing a billion dollars of philanthropy to its housing affordability work between now and 2025, Campbell says money alone won't solve this problem.

"Innovation is going to be critical to solving this housing affordability issues, no doubt about it. So, one of the other exciting things that we're doing here at the summit is we're announcing a $20 million innovation challenge grant in three areas where we want ideas from entrepreneurs," Campbell says. "Number one, what are the new exciting ideas in how we can create more financing and lower cost for housing? Number two, how can we lower the cost of housing, whether it be materials or construction or architecture? And, then number three, certainly to provide those social services that are necessary to go along with this important field.

"It's a big announcement, Enterprise Community Partners, is going to help us with this grant and we're really excited about it. I hope many of you will consider joining our challenge grant."

Applications will be available in mid-September and six winners will be selected. For more information, go here.


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