This blog post is the second in a three-part series about the Lotus Campaign, which uses a market-based approach to address homelessness and housing affordability. To read about how Lotus began, click here to read the first post.
The Lotus Campaign’s mission is to “solve homelessness in America by engaging the private, for-profit real estate and investment communities.” Lotus believes that the private sector is not invited often enough to the table to help brainstorm solutions related to affordable housing, especially for the most vulnerable populations.
HOW LOTUS WORKS
The Lotus approach has 3 primary parts that are tied to the immediacy of impact, which are described in detail below: Incent, Invest, and Advise.
Incent. Lotus is currently piloting a Landlord Participation Program, which provides economic incentives and financial guarantees to participating landlords. This approach considers economic risk from the landlord’s point of view and works with local nonprofit organizations to identify individuals for housing and commit to ongoing supportive services. Landlords provide the real estate and property management expertise, organizations identify and support tenants and the Lotus Campaign provides the economic funding and overall structure to facilitate placement into housing.
Invest. Lotus works to unlock capital and leverage it to create additional affordable housing opportunities. Lotus recently invested in its first project, Sharon Crossing, a 144-unit multifamily development located in Southwest Charlotte. As part of this project, 30 units (21%) will be made available to provide housing for up to 48 people currently experiencing homelessness through the Landlord Participation Program, while the remainder of the units will be preserved as quality, workforce housing. Workforce housing refers to housing affordable to households between 80% and 120% of area median income (AMI). All units will be renovated with energy upgrades to help reduce costs for tenants and will include EnergyStar rated windows, low wattage appliances and fixtures, air sealing and improved insulation.
Advise. Lotus is developing educational resources for the private and public sectors to help debunk myths about people experiencing homelessness; housing affordability; and the economics of housing development. Lotus also plans to sponsor research on new construction materials and techniques to come up with ways to significantly reduce constructions costs and time.
The fastest way to put people into housing is to use housing that already exists; the Lotus approach is also a way to engage the landlord community and private, for-profit real estate developers as part of the solution. This could be a model that can be used in other communities. To date, Lotus has facilitated housing placements for over 80 individuals, with 3 participating landlords and 3 sponsoring organizations as part of the pilot.
Learn more about how the Lotus Campaign works here.
Beth Silverman is the Co-founder and Vice-President of The Lotus Campaign.