LA County signs master lease at apartment complex for the homeless

First-of-its-kind deal provides housing for former RV residents with new business model

LA County Signs Master Lease at Apartments for Homeless
Homeless Initiative director Cheri Todoroff and 1619 Firestone Boulevard (Homeless Initiative, Google Maps)

Los Angeles County moved 20 homeless residents from an RV encampment into a new affordable apartment building in Florence-Firestone by signing a master lease with the landlord.

The August lease of a four-story complex at 1619 Firestone Boulevard was part of Pathway Home, a county program to replace recreational vehicle encampments with permanent supportive housing, the Los Angeles Times reported. The landlord, and terms of the deal, were not disclosed.

Since August, the county has conducted five RV camp cleanups, moving 230 people into apartments and taking 122 RVs off the street.

“This is just the start,” Cheri Todoroff, director of the county’s Homeless Initiative, told the Times. “We are going to keep on, working up to a scale of doing multiple encampments each month.”

The challenge is finding apartments, so that the former motor home residents don’t languish in temporary housing such as motels.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is now looking at how the county and City of Los Angeles can lease entire apartment buildings to provide permanent homes for homeless residents.

By obtaining a master lease, the county or city can quickly move people in, while bypassing the credit and background checks that hinder entry into the private rental market. 

Under the plan, nonprofit agencies assume all operating costs including management fees, insurance, maintenance, pest control, security and vacancy losses.

Because of those unpredictable costs, master leasing has not been widely used by local agencies that provide homeless housing and services, Kris Freed, a consultant for LAHSA, told the Times.

The master lease for the new building in Florence-Firestone was the first time a government in L.A. County entered into a master lease, Freed added. 

The modular building was completed this year by property owner Makal Equities and CRATE Modular, a Carson-based firm that manufactures modular construction components for buildings using recycled shipping containers, according to Urbanize Los Angeles.

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LAHSA is currently negotiating several other leases. Half the rooms, when available, will be turned over to the city, county and a state agency for street cleanup programs such as Pathway Home or to L.A. Mayor Karen Bass’ Inside Safe program, Freed said. 

The other half will be allotted to people already living in shelters.

Todoroff said the county wants to lease 1,700 units by the end of next year. There are now more than 22,000 homeless residents estimated outside the city of L.A.

The costs will come from $55 million in state Housing and Homelessness Incentive Program funds funneled to the county by health plans L.A. Care Health Plan and Health Net.

The funds will allow LAHSA to sign multi-year leases to provide long-term homes for the homeless. The funding doesn’t cover rents or services. Measure H, the county’s quarter-percent sales tax for homelessness programs, will pay for services. 

Rent will come from federal or local vouchers, or will receive short-term subsidies, plus income through disability or jobs. 

Because the county controls the leases, tenants who get jobs and can pay their own way don’t have to move out, an essential element to the program, Freed said.

“We need folks that are able to pay their portion,” Freed said. “With that you can scale this. Without people paying their portion there is a ceiling to how many you can bring in.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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