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Jacksonville Targets Affordable Housing for Veterans

Communities in Built for Zero are leveraging innovative housing models and social impact financing to reduce homelessness.
  |  May 31, 2022

Jacksonville, Duval, and surrounding Clay and Nassau Counties are working to make veteran homelessness rare and brief. To reach the milestone of functional zero, Jacksonville would need systems in place to ensure fewer veterans are experiencing homelessness than can be routinely housed.

To support Jacksonville’s efforts to get to zero, Jacksonville is beginning to make deeply affordable units available to those in need of housing. In April 2022, Community Solutions finalized the acquisition of Caroline Village, an affordable housing property that will accommodate veterans. 

The move follows a series of real estate acquisitions by Community Solutions in Atlanta, Santa Fe, and Denver. Properties under this model are directly connected to the homeless response system, which accelerates the placement of folks into stable accommodations.

Built for Zero is a movement of more than 100 communities across the United States that are working to equitably end homelessness. Jacksonville and the regions of Duval and Clay County have participated in Built for Zero since 2015.

The initiative was coordinated by Built for Zero in partnership with local homeless response networks, including the mayor’s office and the Continuum of Care.

Creating a foundation for coordinated care

Over the years, Jacksonville has modeled best-practice methods to reduce veteran homelessness. Service providers conference weekly towards a shared aim of functional zero. The team has also developed a Tableau dashboard to understand population-level trends, derived from quality, by-name data held in Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS).

As of April 26, 192 veterans were on Jacksonville’s real-time, by-name list. Of those veterans, 120 currently have a housing resource, such as a housing voucher or subsidy, and are looking for an available unit. However, there is currently not enough supply to move qualified veterans into housing; veterans with vouchers are also sometimes not accepted into properties.

The acquisition of Caroline Village is a major component of the plan to end homelessness amongst veterans. Investments in affordable housing can help close supply gaps in system resources, and connecting units directly to service providers supports more immediate housing placements. Caroline Village demonstrates a local model of permanent support designed to transition folks from homelessness into stability.

Half the apartments in the 93-unit property will be leased to veterans exiting homelessness, who are connected through case conferencing. The rest will be designated to middle-income individuals.

“Our success is the result of each sector making a commitment,” said Dawn Lockhart, the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Mayor Lenny Curry. “Whenever we are trying to address large-scale community challenges, the public, private and philanthropic sectors are all at the table.”

The motivation to invest in Caroline Village, according to Dawn Gilman, Chief of Jacksonville’s Continuum of Care, is to keep housing assets widely available to those in need. Gilman has led Changing Homelessness since 2009, and believes that an abundance of housing options “makes a healthy community,” as long as they are accessible to folks exiting homelessness.

A social impact model to address the housing supply gap

Caroline Village was an investment project informed by social impact financing, which enables communities to invest in competitive markets and designate assets as resources for local supportive services. Such financing models reclaim assets in otherwise profit-oriented environments, and direct capital back into vulnerable or neglected communities.

Built for Zero uses social impact financing to develop affordable housing more nimbly than by traditional real estate tactics. The practice has also helped Built for Zero communities close the housing gap and reach functional zero.

In Jacksonville, a tight real estate market poses a challenge to affordable housing investments. “Listings go so fast and properties are disappearing before we can even put in bids,” shared K.O. Campbell, the Senior Strategy Lead from Community Solutions. 

Nevertheless, targeting housing investments through a social impact mindset can build foundations for long-term tenant stability. Caroline Village, for instance, will provide built-in tenant resources through a “property management plus” model. 

Through “property management plus,” services such as food resources, transportation, childcare, and even healthcare will assist tenants of the property. Service providers are also scheduled to “check back” with tenants at specific timepoints and support the ongoing stability of folks as they settle into their accommodations. 

An abundance of long-term and inclusive affordable housing creates opportunities for driving homelessness to functional zero. Caroline Village will provide housing for more than one-third of veterans with vouchers in Jacksonville. These dedicated units, supported with services under a “property management plus” model, will set a precedent for ongoing efforts to provide stable, affordable, and long-term housing to those exiting homelessness.

Gilman believes Jacksonville can achieve functional zero for veterans with the addition of more housing units through projects such as Caroline Village. Other populations that Jacksonville aim to service include those experiencing chronic homelessness, youth and families, and single adults. 

“There are more people who are homeless than veterans,” Gilman acknowledged. “We will continue to work with them and have the data as complete as the veterans.”