Recently we sat down with Tommy Newman, Director of Public Affairs to discuss supportive housing and a new report that the Business Leaders Task Force, a partnership between the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Greater Los Angeles, has just released..

Perhaps it might be helpful to first start with an understanding of United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ two distinct housing solution efforts and where this report fits in?

Tommy Newman: The short answer is that Everyone In focuses on public and political will related to the solutions to homelessness and Home for Good looks to policy and systems change work towards the same goal. While we are nearing the first year anniversary of our Everyone In campaign March 9 of this year, United Way of Greater Los Angeles has been working on housing solutions for over a decade through our first initiative, Home for Good—the core of our work to end homelessness. The origin of Home for Good began as an early partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. At the time, coordination and communication between the County and City of Los Angeles was at an all-time low, a ballot initiative to fund homeless housing construction had failed a couple of years earlier, and there was not much consensus on how to move forward in addressing homelessness.

How did the Business Leaders Task Force come to be developed? What does it do?

Tommy Newman: Nearly tens years ago United Way  decided to partner with leaders at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce to dig in to the challenge and better understand the causes--and solutions--to homelessness. Jerry Neuman, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s current Chair of the Board of Directors, as well as a member of our United Way Board of Directors, and Chris Carey, our current United Way of Greater L.A. Board CHair, were the leaders in that initial effort and have maintained their commitment to this work from the beginning.

The Home For Good initiative and the Business Leaders Task Force both emerged from this early work. .The Business Leaders Task Force has met on a monthly basis for nearly the last 10 years, and over the years has engaged deeply in key components of ending homelessness. At various moments the Task Force has released reports that are intended to add another perspective—or lift up and expand existing strategies that are particularly effective, like supportive housing.

Can you help us better understand what exactly you mean by supportive housing and why this report is focused on it specifically?

Tommy Newman:  Sure.  Supportive housing is affordable housing with on-site services that help newly housed neighbors thrive in the community. Homes end homelessness. Supportive housing means that that new home comes with the support to prevent our neighbors who were experiencing homelessness from winding back up on the streets. Supportive housing is typically a good fit for someone who had been experiencing chronic homelessness, who may be in need of support and care for chronic health conditions, life skills, job training or other supportive services in their new homes. Supportive housing has a 90% success rate and is much more cost effective than leaving people out on the street.

I also want to note that we are in the midst of historic investments in the work to end homelessness. Through the two ballot measures approved by voters—Proposition HHH in the City of Los Angeles and Measure H in County of Los Angeles—we have more resources than ever before to invest in solutions such as supportive housing that permanently end homelessness-- this level of investment, combined with the effectiveness of supportive housing, is why the Task Force is so focused on this particular solution to homelessness.

Please tell us about the new report and why the Task Force thought it was necessary to develop it?

Tommy Newman: I’d love to. The Task Force members, co-led by Chris Carey, our United Way of Greater L.A. Board Chair and Jerry Neuman, the Chamber’s Board Chair , made clear that they wanted  to deeply engage in the work of creating more supportive housing.Throughout 2018 the Task Force studied the issue, met with the supportive housing and real estate development communities, and focused on crafting realistic strategies that could help create supportive housing faster and at a lower cost. 

" Six Strategies to Increase the Supply of Supportive Housing. ”  This report is intended to both educate and offer a policy and advocacy road map for anyone who is committed to creating more supportive housing. The Task Force is committed to working with partner organizations and policy makers to test the ideas proposed in this report and do whatever is necessary to keep our collective efforts to innovate solutions to the homelessness crisis. We hope Los Angeles County residents will take some time to read the report and join us in this work.

Why is all of this important?

Tommy Newman: The Business Leaders Task Force has decided to focus on the production of supportive housing for the foreseeable future. Supportive housing is the best solution for the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness--- people with long term disabilities or long histories of homelessness. It is also the solution that both Prop. HHH and Measure H invest significant resources in. With nearly 5,000 units in the Prop. HHH pipeline, we are well on our way to dramatically expanding the availability of supportive housing. The challenge, though, has been the escalating cost and lengthy timelines to get the buildings built.

Would you help us digest the report a bit, with a summary? What are the six strategies to increase the supply of supportive housing?

Tommy Newman: Jump to page 9 if you have limited time or are looking for the Spark Notes / Cliff Notes version. The six strategies are best explained there but they are:

  1. Pilot Housing Innovations with Public and Private Financing;
    • This strategy is focused on testing new construction types, or funding strategies (or both!) to see what helps reduce construction cost and time.
  2. Pilot Privately Financed Housing Construction with Publicly Funded Rent Subsidy;
    • This strategy is focused on exploring new ways to activate the private development sector to build housing in partnership with the public sector, who has rent subsidies that support the ongoing operation of the building.
  3. Convene a Work Group to Study Shared Supportive Housing;
    • This strategy calls for collaboration and learning around how shared housing-- co-living--can work effectively and what role it can play as a type of supportive housing because, while people who aren’t related to each other have lived with each other for a long time, this has not been done in the context of supportive housing at any large scale.
  4. Create a Private Pool of Low-Return Risk-Tolerant Capital Funding that Supports Supportive Housing;
    • This strategy focuses on alternative types of financing and how that can help build more supportive housing, beyond the traditional models that rely primarily on public funding.
  5. Revise Local Policies to Incentivize the Use of Private Dollars for Affordable Housing Creation; and
    • This strategy is focused on testing public policy changes that can help direct private funds-- like development fees that developers often pay--to support the creation of supportive housing.
  6. Expedited Coordinated Review and Inspection
    • This strategy calls for expanded coordination of the review, approval, and inspections of supportive housing-- while less flashy, the Task Force heard repeatedly that there was the potential for tremendous cost and construction time savings associated with this strategy.

Besides reading the report, how can people get involved in this work?

Tommy Newman: Sign up at Come to our events like our Stories from the Frontline: Bringing Everyone in to End Homelessness coming up in Long Beach and around the County. Join our organizing team, or attend local meetings. 

Thank you!