Key recommendations from ULI’s report:
- Reduce the unsheltered homeless by 50 percent by end of 2018 with a major commitment to temporary shelters
- Establish 60 community housing solution centers throughout LA within two years
- Increase the overall housing supply – streamline approvals, incentivize development, encourage innovative design
- Reimagine leadership and accountability – build political will, expand responsibility for solutions
Rising homelessness throughout Los Angeles can be stemmed only through bold, creative, collaborative actions by the public, private and non-profit sectors to increase access to shelters as well as transitional and permanent housing, says a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The Institute is a global, member-driven real estate organization dedicated to the development of thriving, sustainable communities.
Homelessness: Recommendations for Local Action is based on a thorough evaluation of Los Angeles’s homelessness problem conducted through ULI’s Advisory Services Program this past December. (At more than 57,000, Los Angeles County’s homeless population is the second highest in the U.S., ranking just below that of New York City.) The report builds on existing efforts to combat homelessness by providing short- and long-term housing solutions and offering guidance on deploying and leveraging the billions in bond proceeds being generated by Measure H and Proposition HHH for homelessness assistance.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of Los Angeles City Council have embraced many of the report’s key recommendations. Mayor Garcetti included several of its recommendations in his recent State of the City Address – most significantly, the expansion of community shelters. ULI Los Angeles will soon announce additional far-reaching implementation efforts.
While ULI’s recommendations focus primarily on the city of Los Angeles (where the majority of the area’s homeless are located), they are applicable to Los Angeles County and can be adapted for other metropolitan regions. The recommendations were made by a panel of housing, architecture, public policy and housing finance experts convened by the Institute through the Advisory Services Program to address the issue of homelessness from a social and land use standpoint. With rising housing costs and insufficient housing supply as overriding factors, the panel’s work included consideration of how housing developers and neighborhood leaders could find common ground on land use plans that allow housing to be built in areas where it has typically been blocked; how and where supportive housing and affordable housing can be built at a large scale; the assessment of optimal housing uses tailored to specific needs of different neighborhoods; and ways to avoid concentrating the homeless in specific neighborhoods.
“The panel’s work is impressive in terms of its ability to untangle the competing pressures and aid in resolving a vexing social issue from a real estate perspective,” said ULI Americas Chairman Trish Healy, principal at Hyde Street Holdings LLC. “What ULI brought to this panel assignment is the essence of the Urban Land Institute – members with a broad range of industry expertise, an openness to ideas, and an ability to bring together stakeholders with different and perhaps even competing interests.”
The panel’s recommendations center around one main goal as a starting point – reducing the number of unsheltered homeless (people not sleeping in shelters) by 50 percent by the end of 2018. The recommendations include:
- Use existing resources effectively – The city and its partners should intensify efforts to connect the unsheltered homeless with existing shelters and fill unused beds and supportive housing units;
- Establish 60 community housing centers on land owned by the city, county or non-profits, using vacant or underused properties when possible. Centers should be equally distributed across the city, with four in each of the 15 council districts.
- Quickly reclaim and restore public spaces formerly occupied by homeless encampments for use as park/recreational space by the general public.
- Invest in scattered-site, permanent supportive housing with a focus on innovative, cost-effective approaches for combining housing and services; aim to provide 500 units each year for five years using an approach that incentivizes owners of small to medium-sized properties to participate.
- Increase the overall housing supply – from single-family homes, market-rate condos to supportive housing – to start reversing the city’s growing housing shortage.
- Streamline approvals and offer more incentives for housing construction, with an emphasis on affordable housing development.
- Encourage innovation in housing design and development; embrace different solutions such as accessory dwelling units.
- Capitalize on the growing acceptance of density that involves well-designed affordable housing near transit; highlight best practices of this type of development.
- Reimagine leadership and accountability by building the political will for all leaders to work together on solutions that locate the siting of temporary and permanent housing in every district.
The panel, which received significant support from ULI Los Angeles, was convened at the suggestion of several ULI Los Angeles leaders, and its work was informed by the advice and guidance of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate. Panelists spent a week touring homeless encampments and possible sites for housing, interviewing more than 70 stakeholders representing the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and analyzing the severity, scale and complexity of the problem. “This is a problem throughout Los Angeles. Essentially, every neighborhood, every business, every local philanthropy, every resident of Los Angeles has a stake in solving this problem,” said Panel Chairman Leigh Ferguson, economic development director for the downtown district of New Orleans. “We saw a high level of concern, sensitivity and caring among all the stakeholders about finding good solutions.”
ULI Trustee and ULI Los Angeles leader Wayne Ratkovich pointed to ULI’s vantage point – one in which the problem was examined from an economic and land use standpoint as well as a social standpoint – as being particularly useful in identifying solutions that might not otherwise be considered. “Among ULI’s 40,000-plus members, there are people with an enormous amount of experience in all aspects of city building, and ULI was able to draw upon those resources and bring to Los Angeles a group of people willing to share their expertise on an issue that is very important to the city,” said Ratkovich, president of The Ratkovich Company. “What they prescribed for the city is something we need to listen to very carefully and follow up on. The work of this panel speaks very highly of ULI and the capabilities its membership can bring to any urban challenge.”
ULI Los Angeles Chairman Clare De Briere, founder of C+C Ventures, pointed to the broad range of stakeholders involved in the panel process, including advocates for the homeless as well as public officials and the development community. “They were actively engaged with the process and fully supported it, they were heard, and it was fantastic,” she said. “As the findings of the panel are shared with the community, there is a coalition of people behind it that ULI is uniquely positioned to bring together.”
Healy noted that the panel was particularly noteworthy, not just because of the complexity of the task, but also because it was funded entirely by the ULI Foundation, reflecting the Institute’s increased emphasis on proactively seeking to help communities address various types of urban challenges. “Expanding ULI’s successful advisory services program to include self-directed panels allows ULI to add another dimension to its advisory work,” she said. “In addition to the sponsors who ask for assistance on pressing issues, ULI, through its philanthropic support, will be able to go into communities that need us the most. It is an exciting development!”
Support for the ULI panel came from more than $500,000 raised at a ULI Foundation gala held at ULI’s 2017 Fall Meeting to raise funds for the Advisory Services program and honor one of the Institute’s strongest supporters, ULI Foundation Governor Roy Hilton March, who helped significantly with the fundraising effort. March, chief executive officer of Eastdil Secured, told gala attendees that he sees in ULI a way to advance his passion for helping society’s most disadvantaged people. “As a society, we will be judged by the people on the margin, and these people (the homeless) are certainly on the margin. Homelessness is one of the greatest unnatural disasters, and it is our responsibility to deal with it,” March said. The exploration of immediate and long-term solutions—particularly those related to access to affordable housing—is “perfectly suited” to the advancement of the Institute’s mission, he noted.
Now in its 71st year, the advisory services program has convened more than 700 panels assisting communities with a broad range of challenges, ranging from reuse of obsolete industrial facilities to increasing the stock of affordable housing. “The advisory services program is about helping communities become more livable, sustainable and successful,” said ULI Advisory Services Executive Vice President Paul Bernard. “The expansion of this program holds great promise for ULI, in terms of its ability to change people’s lives through better communities.”