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LeaseUp Offers Help for the Homeless and Steady Income for Landlords

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In the last year, we've seen the economic recession and a pandemic take its toll on renters and property managers alike. With the housing market in turmoil, thousands of landlords are struggling to fill empty units for market rates.

LeaseUp — powered by PATH — is a program that works to help bring some stability back to the L.A. County market by working to help landlords who have vacant units connect with renters who are currently experiencing homelessness.

And in the words of Steven Gray, one of the hundreds of property managers participating in LeaseUp, this isn't a voucher program that solely "throws money at landlords" and leaves them without any other form of support.

Steven, Vice President and CPO of Helpful Housing, a Long Beach-based nonprofit that works with market-rate renters as well as low-income tenants, knows the struggle and trauma many landlords have had with other voucher programs aimed at ending homelessness. "LeaseUp is truly different," Steven implores with a smile.

LeaseUp receives funding from LAHSA (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) and works with more than 600 property owners and managers across Southern California to provide stable tenants for subsidized market-rate rentals. The program locates people who need housing the most--for example, from homeless shelters or supportive housing--and connects them with landlords.

LeaseUp finds the best tenant for each unit and provides what otherwise could be barriers to renting, such as a deposit or income requirement. The program also offers a holding fee for landlords, so they aren't sitting on an empty apartment while the tenant is going through the approval process.

But besides the guaranteed income, Steven says the biggest difference with LeaseUp is the 24-hour customer support with a dedicated housing specialist, in Steven's case, Vanessa.

"Vanessa's absolutely fantastic. Working with her is super easy. I always know I can call her with any questions or if any issues arise."

Gray wants other landlords to understand that LeaseUp can provide a stable income stream, especially during a time of economic uncertainty.

"During Covid, a lot of the open-market tenants just stopped paying rent because they were misinformed," Gray says, adding that many people didn't understand that their rent would accrue, even if they weren't immediately being evicted. "Our delinquency skyrocketed from the non-subsidized tenants, but those rental payments from the subsidized tenants never stopped. It worked out really well in a very unpredictable time."

On top of the financial benefits, LeaseUp provides a crucial service to many families and individuals facing an uncertain future. One recent example--a single, financially challenged father we'll call Pete, housed through a nonprofit program, had worked hard to get his life stabilized and find work. This allowed him to take custody of his two young sons, which in most cases, would be a win. However, in a cruel twist of fate, once they were a family under the same roof, Pete became ineligible for his housing benefit. He fell behind in rent and was in jeopardy of losing his home. That is, until LeaseUp stepped in.

Today, Pete and his children are housed, healthy, and thriving. In short, it's a model to both do good, and do well.

Steven Gray says LeaseUp is successful because it caters to tenants who just need a runway and people who need temporary assistance to find jobs, save money and secure safe and stable housing. It also helps those with long-term housing needs, such as those who are elderly or disabled and may not be able to come up with necessary funds.

Tenants are evaluated individually and the length of their assistance--anywhere from six months to several years--depends on their circumstances and potential for making enough income to transition out of the program. LeaseUp normally serves those who are experiencing homelessness, but has temporarily expanded to help those who have lost jobs due to COVID and need rental assistance.

If you're a landlord or property manager interested in participating in LeaseUp, get started at leaseupla.org