Not a single U.S. city has an adequate supply of affordable housing, but the housing crisis is particularly overwhelming in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there were an estimated 66,436 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2020. The agency’s annual count was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that has undoubtedly risen even higher as a result of Covid-19.
As politicians, civic leaders and real estate industry professionals alike work to come up with inventive solutions to the affordable housing crisis, one agency has found a creative way to serve this growing population and property owners searching for reliable tenants.
LeaseUp was founded in November 2018 through a partnership between the nonprofit group PATH, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and community partner agencies across LA County. The program pairs up Angelenos who have received government rental subsidies with housing providers who are looking to lease their spaces to tenants they can trust.
“As a community, we need to be opening up access to housing resources,” said Jennifer Lee, PATH’s director of housing partnerships. “At the same time, there are many housing providers who are searching for tenants to help them meet their bottom line. We have found a way to help address both issues at once.”
When a property owner reaches out to the LeaseUp team, the organization will send staff members to tour their property, negotiate rent and take pictures to advertise the space on the LeaseUp website — all at no cost to the owner.
Case managers then view those listings to find properties that suit their clients’ needs. LeaseUp coordinates with property owners directly to help them schedule viewings and manage applications so they are not constantly fielding phone calls or managing listings on their own.
LeaseUp works with a variety of different property owners, from large corporations that own several multifamily apartment buildings, to owners of single-family homes to people who may just want to rent out a spare bedroom in their home. The LeaseUp team covers all of LA, and has staff working in four locations who understand the unique needs and housing options in each community.
The site works similarly to Trulia, Zillow and other well-known apartment search sites, but it is specific to the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Currently, LeaseUp is working with more than 700 housing providers to lease their units and the organization is coordinating with several large property groups who are planning to bring multifamily buildings online in LA.
“We offer a government-backed rental guarantee,” Lee said. “Housing providers can feel confident that our tenants not only can pay rent, but also that they have case managers supporting them and making sure they will be successful in their apartment. It’s a real community-based approach.”
LeaseUp provides a holding fee to property owners of up to one month’s rent in order to gain exclusive rights to market a space to their users. Because property owners lose income for every day a property is vacant, that holding fee protects owners’ bottom lines while the LeaseUp team identifies the right tenant.
Property owners can also utilize LeaseUp’s 24-hour support hotline if any issues arise, and the organization provides a $10K safety net to cover additional costs if a tenant causes any damages that are not fully covered by a security deposit.
Through LeaseUp, property owners can not only lease their properties faster, but for longer as well, Lee said. She said that their leases are always for a minimum of 12 months, so the team also has a staff of certified, trained mediators who can address any tenant issues that may come up, so owners do not have to take on the often complicated task of handling those problems on their own.
“Because of our work with some of these property management companies, they have been able to work with owners to purchase new buildings,” Lee said. “There are companies offering our program as a way to lease entire buildings outright, both because of our effectiveness, and because of the reliability of our tenants.”