PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Finding affordable housing in Arizona can seem like an impossible task for some Arizona families, but this year a new fund is poised to make its first grants in an effort to change that.

"We see ourselves as not the solution, but a solution," said Howard Epstein, an executive at Bank of America who founded the Arizona Housing Fund.

About a year and a half ago, Arizonans selling their home got an extra option: they could donate $25 to the Arizona Housing Fund as they closed on their property. And now, it's all starting to add up. Since it was founded, the Arizona Housing Fund has raised more than $500,000. Money has come from the unique Escrow donation program, as well as from private individuals and foundations. According to the organization, more than 10,000 people in Arizona are waiting for an affordable housing spot to open up.

"Everything is so highly-priced. That I personally think is the issue," said Marisa Conley, a client at UMOM, which serves as a family shelter as they find housing.

The family's income was impacted by the pandemic, and they had to leave a relative's house when it was sold last year.

"We were in our vehicle for a couple of days there, and that was not a pretty sight at all. With five of us in a little car, we did what we had to do, but yeah, it was very scary," Conley said.

On Thursday, Conley and her family moved out of UMOM after the shelter helped them get back on their feet. It's the type of organization that the Arizona Housing Fund is trying to target with its grants. Later this year they'll be giving money to established non-profits that have experience building and operating affordable housing.

"We've got a real issue, and we've got to deal with it. And I think there's a feeling in our community that we've got to have all hands on deck," Epstein said.


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No matter the subject, reporter Max Gorden seeks to tell compelling, impactful stories that spark debate and inspire thought. Read more about Max.

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