Robin Hughes, President and CEO of Abode Communities states the problem succinctly. “We have a real housing crisis. More than 66,000 people are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County, and to get people off the street, we need a housing-first approach.”
COVID-19 is only exacerbating the situation. She continues, “We are very concerned that when the moratorium on eviction ends, a number of renters will have accumulated significant unpaid rent obligations they can’t meet, and we will see a spike in evictions in the overall rental market.”
Los Angeles-based Abode Communities is facing the problem of homelessness head on.
Abode Communities is a nonprofit social enterprise with more than 50 years serving low-income people of color through the design, development, and operation of service-enhanced affordable and supportive housing across California. Now, they have answered the City of Los Angeles Proposition HHH Housing Challenge by teaming with Mercy Housing and LA Family Housing on six projects totaling 360 units of supportive housing. The charge: Demonstrate innovations that bring supportive housing online more quickly, creating both time- and cost-savings by streamlining development through a replicable and scalable model. That is especially important in Los Angeles, where high development costs have plagued affordable housing projects (1). To succeed, the team has standardized every aspect of the development process; they will use the same acquisition lender, the same architect, the same service provider, and the same modular manufacturer.
Hughes explains, “With this model, we are seeing a marked reduction in our predevelopment schedule — from the time it takes to acquire a site to the time it takes to start construction. Our use of prefabricated design and modular construction is absolutely a critical component to reducing project costs.”
Under this model, financing could go further. “If the County or City had a bond that normally produced 10,000 units of housing, modular construction could potentially be scaled upwards to 15,000 units,” says Hughes.
Critically, quality remains high. “In the end, as designer, owner, and operator, we sacrifice nothing. We’re still able to achieve a high-quality standard of living for our residents,” states Hughes.
With a $3.3 million acquisition loan, BlueHub helped finance the first project in this initiative, Abode Communities’ Beacon Landing. This new 89-unit building — a typical apartment community — will be located in San Pedro, a neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles, where homelessness is on the rise. Abode Communities’ housing-first philosophy offers a durable solution. “It’s our goal to first provide long-term, permanently affordable housing, then provide the supportive services to help our residents thrive in their homes.”
And Abode Communities’ new standardized approach? Hughes is clear: “Projects like Beacon Landing will model an innovative solution to build more permanent supportive housing throughout Los Angeles communities.”