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Addressing Homelessness at the Real Estate Level

Working to address the homelessness crisis throughout the country, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) has released a new report investigating how the real estate community is working to address this crisis on a nationwide scale. 

Overall, the report shows how to support people experiencing homelessness through “creative housing solutions” and collaborations with community organizations, with the ultimate goal of providing abundant affordable, and high quality housing for affected and at-risk populations. 

According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2020 was the fourth year in a row that experienced a higher homeless population than in the year past. The report goes on to say that homelessness should be treated as a systemic issue that necessitates the involvement and collaboration of the government, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, health and social services, faith-based organizations, and the public. 

In an effort to better inform players at every level, the ULI’s report offers housing case studies, applicable lessons, and a blueprint that can be used at the community level that shows how the development community can be an active partner in addressing homelessness. 

"More than ever before, homelessness is being driven by rapidly increasing housing costs, and the public and private sectors must work together both to meet the needs of the unhoused and to prevent more households from falling into homelessness," said Christopher Ptomey, Executive Director of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing. "This report offers creative models and examples of how the real estate community is effectively leveraging its housing development, management, investment, and financing expertise to enable cities to overcome the growing challenge of homelessness." 

Key takeaways from the new report include: 

  • Housing is important, but social services are essential: Housing is an essential first step in addressing homelessness, but it is not a solution in and of itself. Comprehensive social services are a critical second component. Delivering one without the other offers little chance of successfully tackling the crisis. 
  • Novel, creative solutions are needed: Nowhere is the need for innovation more evident than in seeking to address homelessness. Two areas of focus are cost-effective construction methods and non-governmental funding sources. Private companies -- both in real estate and in other sectors -- have a vital role to play in the latter. 
  • All segments of the community must play a role: Homelessness affects real estate, health care, social services, education, economic development, and more. Community collaboration is essential, particularly among the private and public sectors. The real estate sector is obligated to provide cost-effective housing, and it is incumbent on governments to pursue bold policies that allow for more housing for people of all income levels. 
  • Homelessness is a multifaceted issue, but in many cases links back to economics: Whether because of a lack of affordable housing, low wages, unexpected expenses, loss of employment, illness, lack of insurance, or a domestic issue, homelessness can be a result of economic stress. 

The full Homeless to Housed report is available on ULI's Knowledge Finder platform. 

About Author: Kyle G. Horst

Kyle Horst
Kyle G. Horst is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler, he has worked for a number of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in South Dakota and Texas. With more than 10 years of experience in community journalism, he has won a number of state, national, and international awards for his writing and photography. He most recently worked as editor of Community Impact Newspaper covering a number of Dallas-Ft. Worth communities on a hyperlocal level. Contact Kyle G. at [email protected]
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