Ford Foundation to open 1st Detroit office in 64 years

Associated Press

Detroit — The Ford Foundation is getting ready to open its first office in Detroit since leaving the city in 1953 as it ramps up an initiative to invest in affordable housing in Detroit.

Foundation President Darren Walker is expected to detail the decision in a speech Thursday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Crain’s Detroit Business reported.

Walker said the international foundation has hired a new program officer who will be based in the city later this year.

“They will be working from Detroit and working with grantee partners there so we don’t have to have staff parachute in and out,” he said. “I think it’s important because having someone close to the ground, someone working in the city, is a more effective way to do our work.”

The new program officer will be in charge of overseeing the $15 million in grants the foundation is making in Detroit annually, which Walker said is the most of any U.S. city.

The decision to put an employee in Detroit is the latest effort Walker’s made to build the foundation’s ties to the city, where its endowment was first created from the estates of auto baron Henry Ford and his son Edsel, who took on the foundation in 1936.

Walker brought the foundation’s annual board meeting to Detroit in June 2015, the first since 1948. The decision came after the foundation’s unexpected $125 million contribution to the “grand bargain” deal that settled Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and protected the city’s art collection from creditors.

The new Detroit staffer also comes as the foundation looks to invest in affordable housing in the city’s neighborhoods outside downtown. The foundation announced in April it would put $1 billion into mission-related investments focused on tackling poverty abroad and affordable housing in the U.S.

Walker said a director for the housing initiative is expected to be hired this summer.