Eva Longoria has long been a social activist and a philanthropist. Best known for her role as Gabrielle Solis on the ABC television show Desperate Housewives, the actress, who was raised in Texas by ninth-generation Mexican-American parents, started her own charitable foundation in 2012. The Eva Longoria Foundation aims to help “Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship.”
Now Longoria, who has a women’s apparel line coming out this fall, is blending her entrepreneurial talents and her philanthropic interests by teaming up with real estate executive Bobby Turner to launch a new Turner Impact Capital fund devoted to housing for moderate-income workers.
“All of my advocacy is in the Latino community,” says Longoria, 41, who served as national co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and is supporting Hillary Clinton for president. Much of her work involves farm laborers. “Every time I would be with them in the field, there were so many times these people would drive two, three, four hours to work and then drive home,” Longoria says. “It was so taxing on them — on their bodies, on their quality of life.”
Longoria says her efforts to help such workers had focused on improving labor conditions: “getting people better pay, getting them breaks, getting them water.”
The lack of affordable housing close to job sites makes life tougher for middle- and low-income workers, their families and their communities. “With my charity, we work a lot on education,” Longoria says. “Mom and Dad were driving home; Mom didn’t have time to help the kids with their homework.” Yet Longoria had seen little opportunity to address the housing problem until her friend Turner offered a solution in the form of a for-profit investment fund.
The Turner Multifamily Impact Fund will provide accommodation for moderate-income workers, those who earn up to 80 percent of the local median and make too much to qualify for subsidized housing. The closed-end fund is looking to acquire and improve workforce housing, mostly apartment buildings, in densely populated, ethnically diverse urban centers throughout the U.S. For a family of four in Miami, 80 percent of median annual income is $38,720, according to government data. In Washington the threshold is $85,600; in Los Angeles it’s $48,480.
If families spend half or more of their income on rent, they have little available for other needs such as food, transportation and clothing. But with real estate prices soaring, property developers are buying up lower-income units and turning them into more high-priced or luxury housing, which many workers can’t afford.
Turner says he expects renters in the fund-owned buildings to include service professionals such as teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters and municipal workers. The fund, which has targeted annual net returns of between 10 and 12 percent, is looking to raise $300 million; it already has the first $200 million from investors such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the University of Michigan and the Pershing Square Foundation, founded by hedge fund manager William Ackman and his wife, Karen.
Los Angeles–based Turner is delighted to be working with Longoria. “I am hashtag stoked,” says the money manager, who launched $750 million Turner Impact in 2014 after a career heading the real estate business at alternative-investment firm Canyon Partners. “Eva is not passionate about this stuff; she is fanatical. I only partner with people who are truly authentic and tireless.”
This isn’t the first time that Turner, 53, has joined forces with a celebrity to develop a fund. The Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund was founded in 2011 with retired tennis great Andre Agassi, a charter school advocate. At Canyon, Turner also developed a series of funds with basketball legend Earvin (Magic) Johnson that invested in inner cities.
In the case of the Turner Multifamily Impact Fund, Turner says that one way his firm will add value to properties is by boosting neighborhood services and resources. This includes aiming to partner with the Turner-Agassi fund to improve schooling and education options.
Longoria says she likes the fact that the Multifamily Impact Fund is offering a complete community solution. “What is amazing about this fund is it kind of aggregates all the needs of these communities,” she notes. “It solves so many problems.” Turner Impact plans to align with nonprofit public agencies and other service providers to bring assets such as hospitals to neighborhoods. It will also offer in-building facilities like well-being programs, community sports activities and after-school tutoring.
Would-be residents might hope to avoid the drama of Wisteria Lane, the fictional street where Desperate Housewives was set, but they’ll be happy for Longoria’s support as a champion of working communities.