Tyson: Kaiser's Oakland housing initiatives first step toward national model
Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said Thursday he sees the organization's recent initiatives to address homelessness and housing instability in the Bay Area as a first step toward developing "an ecosystem" of supports that could spread throughout Kaiser's national network.
This week, Kaiser unveiled the first three of its projects aimed at reducing homelessness and preventing displacement, two of which are being funded by the $200 million Thriving Communities Fund the system announced last May.
Initiatives include investing $5.2 million with Oakland, Calif.-based, not-for-profit community development organizations for the purchase of a 41-unit apartment complex in East Oakland to be used for affordable housing.
Tyson said the system also plans to permanently house more than 500 of the city's homeless individuals age 50 and older who have one or more chronic health conditions and provide them with social services and supports.
But the largest investment comes in the form of a $100 million fund Kaiser created with not-for-profit housing organization Enterprise Community Partners to preserve and expand affordable housing in communities within the eight states and District of Columbia where the system operates. Enterprise matched Kaiser's $50 million commitment.
System officials said Oakland's homeless population increased 25% from 2015 to 2017. A 2013 American Journal of Public Health study found that healthcare utilization costs among 6,500 homeless individuals in Boston were 3.8 times higher than the rate of an average Medicaid recipient. Each person cost Medicaid more than $2,000 per day.
Nationally, an estimated 546,566 people experienced homelessness in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But an analysis released in December by researchers from the University of New Hampshire, Boston University and the University of Pennsylvania found that estimate was mostly likely too low, projecting the number of people who experienced homelessness in 2017 was more than 660,000.
Dr. Bechara Choucair, senior vice president and chief community health officer at Kaiser, said Kaiser's strategy is to help not-for-profit real estate developers buy properties under federal programs like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Landlords who provided affordable housing under the program to receive tax credits have ended their term agreements and are raising rents to market value.
In November, the University of Pennsylvania found an estimated 450,000 units will reach their LIHTC's 30-year expiration mark by 2026, with New York, California and Texas seeing the biggest potential spikes in rent.
Kaiser hopes to help developers buy those expiring properties and create new affordable housing under new long-term financing arrangements.
"It's going upstream to deal with the core issue in most cases, which is the affordability of housing," Tyson said.
He sees the Oakland-based projects as forming models that could then be applied to other cities.
"We're going to learn additional things from this Oakland situation that will be applicable as a toolkit to other parts of the country," Tyson said.
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