MacKenzie Scott donates $436M to Habitat for Humanity

Atlanta Habitat for Humanity gets $13.5M as part of a grant
Volunteers work on a Habitat for Humanity home in the Ashview Heights neighborhood near Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2019. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/STRUBEY@AJC.COM

Volunteers work on a Habitat for Humanity home in the Ashview Heights neighborhood near Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2019. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/STRUBEY@AJC.COM

Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is keeping her eye — and her money — on Georgia.

Habitat for Humanity International is the latest nonprofit to receive a hefty donation from Scott, an author and the former wife of Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos. She has recently made headlines for her many contributions to charity.

The Atlanta-based nonprofit, which was founded in 1976, will receive a total gift of $436 million, with $25 million to go directly to the umbrella organization and the rest to its 84 affiliates, including five in Georgia.

The donation is unrestricted, meaning Habitat can use the funds as it sees fit. Habitat for Humanity works to promote affordable homeownership, building homes and allowing families to contribute “sweat equity” and make monthly mortgage payments. It also offers financial education programs and home repairs.

“Specifically, the donation will allow Atlanta Habitat to accelerate current plans to diversify our construction portfolio while safely navigating through an affordable housing crisis aided by a changing economic environment, escalating materials and land costs, a corresponding tight labor market, and a global health pandemic,” Rosalyn Merrick, interim president and CEO, Atlanta Habitat said in a release.

Rosalyn Merrick, interim president and CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, says major donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott is validation that the nonprofit in doing good work in addressing affordable housing.

Credit: Andrew/TOSHE

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Credit: Andrew/TOSHE

The four other affiliates selected to receive funds are: Columbus Area Habitat for Humanity, Gwinnett County Habitat for Humanity, Houston County Habitat for Humanity, and Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

Atlanta Habitat for Humanity will receive $13.5 million, the largest gift in its nearly 40-year history.

“Her style as a donor is to empower organizations already doing impactful work, particularly in the area of affordable housing,” Merrick said. “We receive this as the ultimate approval for the work that we continue to do, and her gift accelerates that.”

Atlanta Habitat expects to reach nearly 1,200 additional families across neighborhoods in Atlanta, East Point, Fairburn and South Fulton from now through 2025. It also owns two ReStore locations in Atlanta and South Fulton. ReStores are the retail arm of Atlanta Habitat, where they sell donated merchandise. Sales of donated items help Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

Habitat International will use its $25 million portion of the donation to prioritize advocacy and programmatic efforts designed to address systemic racism in housing, according to the Habitat release. Specifically, the donation will allow Habitat to advocate for policy proposals and legislation that will enable millions of people to access affordable housing through its Cost of Home advocacy campaign.

The need for affordable housing continues to increase in metro Atlanta. Home prices are nearly 25% higher than a year ago as a result of a red-hot market, much of it fueled by big-money investors.

It’s not the first metro Atlanta nonprofit to get a financial boost from Scott. Earlier this year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which has its national headquarters in metro Atlanta, announced it received a $281 million donation.

And Scott also donated $10 million to Fugees Family Inc., which runs a tuition-free private school in DeKalb County that serves refugee and immigrant youth.