Innovative Programs to End Homelessness

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NCCEHAs one of the fastest growing regions in the country, with population projections calling for as many as one million additional residents by 2040, cities in the Research Triangle face an increasing challenge to meet housing demand, specifically for those experiencing homelessness and earning very low incomes. In Durham, where the development pipeline is relatively strong, a lag in development is still felt from the 2008 credit crisis has exacerbated the issue, increasing rents and leaving those in need feeling a greater strain. This coupled with an overall decline in federal funding to support low income and homeless housing development, the city of Durham is faced with an affordable housing crisis. In response to this, graduate students from UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning partnered with advisers from Self-Help and the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH) to develop an innovative model that will make more units available to very low-income individuals and those experiencing homelessness. Still in development, this new model is informed by successful programs implemented across the country and on feedback garnered through focus groups including local housing housing experts, public sector advocates and private sector stakeholders. This blog post is intended to shed light on the current homelessness and affordable housing issues in Durham, as well as highlight innovative programs from around the country that may be successfully applied in Bull City.

Successful programs from around the country

Housing First

Initial research by UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning graduate students has focused on a few innovative programs that have gained recent attention, primarily based on the model of Housing First, developed by Pathways to Housing in New York City. The Housing First model views housing as a basic human right and the first crucial step in providing permanent re-housing, while many other homeless re-housing models require individuals demonstrate a “readiness for housing” before it is granted. The Housing First model asserts that by providing housing as a first step, supported by treatment and training, individuals are more quickly and cost effectively able to get back on their feet and the more substantial public costs associated with repeat hospitalization, shelter or even jail can be avoided. Highlighted below are two programs in Nashville, TN and Seattle, WA that have built on this premise in innovative ways to end homelessness and provide housing to very low-income individuals. Elements of both programs offer innovative solutions that may be applicable in Durham to address the ever-worsening affordability and homeless crisis.

How’s Nashville

Launched in 2013 as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the How’s Nashville program set out to end chronic homelessness in Nashville by identifying those most in need of re-housing and establishing relationships with private sector landlords to provide it. Under the program, private sector landlords were asked to donate 1% of their rental housing stock to be set aside for Section 8 vouchers or to be offered at substantially reduced rent. By emphasizing relationships between both landlords and those in need, the How’s Nashville program has more than doubled the number of average monthly housing placements across the city.

Landlord Liaison Project

Since its inception in 2009, the Landlord Liaison Project (LLP) in Seattle, WA has been effective in successfully connecting homeless and low income families, who previously faced barriers to housing, with landlords that provide permanent housing solutions. LLP is a partnership between landlords, property managers and human services agencies to connect low income and homeless individuals with landlords who relax their leasing requirements or offer up already vacant units to be occupied. Key elements of the program include a monitoring system which tracks those in need and connects them with vacant units across the city, as well as a 24-hour, rapid response hotline that property managers can utilize if tenant issues arise. Since it was established, the Landlord Liaison Project has helped place hundreds of individuals in permanent housing.

Current homelessness and affordability issues in Durham

According to Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD), a community organization providing food and shelter to those in need, between 3,000 – 5,000 individuals experience homelessness annually in the City of Durham. Further compounding the issue, statistics published by DurhamCares, an organization fostering community-driven service and development opportunities in the City, indicate that 60% of all households in the city face a housing cost burden where housing costs represent greater than 30% of their annual income. At a September 2014 meeting of housing and affordability advocates, members of Durham City-County Planning Department voiced concern that given little recent affordable housing development, without thoughtful provisioning for low and moderately low income housing around planned development in the city, the affordability crisis could become far more severe.

Stay tuned to this blog for more information on the partnership between graduate students from the Department of City and Regional Planning, Self-Help, and the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH) to develop an innovative model to address homelessness.

Tanner Dudley is a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Community Revitalization Fellow with the Development Finance Initiative.

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