Center on Housing and Homelessness Projects

Current Projects

LA LEADS (Longitudinal Enumeration and Demographic Survey Study)

In Fall 2021 the center launched a first of a kind data collection effort to provide better estimates of unsheltered people in Los Angeles and gather their perspectives on obtaining housing in Los Angeles. Three “hot spot” areas—Skid Row, Hollywood, and Venice—were visited to count the number of unhoused people, vehicles, tents and makeshift shelters. We also surveyed more than 400 individuals in these same areas on their demographics, experiences with homelessness, and their housing needs. To date we have released an interim report and annual report detailing the findings from this ongoing study. In 2023 we are continuing to do enumerations and will deploy an updated survey to learn more about the experiences of unsheltered Angelenos.

This study has been covered extensively by the LA Times, KPCC radio, KCRW radio, CBS News, and other media outlets. The LA LEADS study is made possible by generous funding from the Lowy Family Group and the A-Mark Foundation. An early extension of the LA LEADS study focusing on the “Veterans Row” encampment outside the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Campus was funded by the RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute, which was established from a gift by the Daniel J. Epstein Family Foundation to RAND.

Logo for the A-Mark Foundation
Read the report Explore the interactive map Read the news release Read the interim report Read the conference proceedings

Estimating the Impact of Drought on California’s Housing Needs

In California, the increases in housing supply needed to help address the state’s growing shortage of affordable housing sit in stark contrast to the risks of declining water available to meet these housing needs. At the same time, climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of drought, resulting in loss of water supply and water shortages across the state. To address these issues, and as a part of the Fifth California Climate Change Assessment, this project will

  • Estimate how much housing growth will be constrained by future drought and how that will affect California’s future unmet housing needs
  • Work will with stakeholders to determine a range of appropriate policies, investments or interventions that could reduce these constraints on housing growth.

The effort will focus on three counties in California—San Bernardino, Ventura, and San Diego—that acutely face the dual challenges of drought and housing affordability, as well as represent varying hydrologic and urban contexts to examine these dynamics.

Examining the Impact of Climate Change on California’s Unsheltered Population

At the start of 2024, RAND began work as a part of California’s Fifth Climate Change Assessment to understand the impact of climate change on California’s unsheltered population. As the climate changes, California will experience more dangerous and frequent heat waves, incidents of toxic wildfire smoke, and flooding from heavy precipitation events. These hazards leave the over 110,000 people in California living unsheltered at particular risk.

This project will provide officials with an understanding of the frequency and severity of extreme heat, wildfire smoke, and heavy precipitation induced flooding in areas in California with large unsheltered populations. From interviews with practitioners across California, RAND will supply a list of feasible strategies to alleviate the harm from increasingly common extreme weather and provide an understanding of the challenges to implementing these strategies. Through quantitative and qualitative surveys with unsheltered individuals in Los Angeles and Sacramento Counties, RAND will describe what prevents these strategies from being successful, how risk is communicated and evaluated, and what could be done to reduce risk to unsheltered people during extreme weather events.

Improving Utilization in the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program

The RAND Center for Housing and Homelessness has received a grant from the Cooper Housing Institute to identify ways to improve utilization in the federal Housing Choice Voucher program, with a goal of achieving higher use rates among families that receive Section 8 vouchers.

The Housing Choice Voucher program helps more than 5 million low-income Americans afford safe and decent housing in the private retail market. The demand for the Section 8 vouchers far outstrips supply, with only one in four of eligible households receiving a voucher.

Despite this demand, many communities across the country experience persistent difficulties with landlord participation because of housing scarcity, as well as administrative and structural hurdles associated with the Housing Choice Voucher program. These challenges have resulted in vouchers going unused in many high housing cost-burdened markets.

The RAND study will aim to identify policy and operational choices within public housing authority control that could loosen these hurdles and increase voucher use.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley. The Cooper Housing Institute is a private research foundation dedicated to solving the affordable housing crisis in the U.S.

Understanding Transition Aged Youth Homeless Experiences and Foster Care Involvement

This project seeks to build foundational knowledge about transition aged youth (TAY) experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County and will, more specifically, expand on what is known about those involved with the foster care (FC) system. First, RAND will conduct a survey effort to gather extensive quantitative and qualitative information from a large sample of unhoused TAY including demographic information, involvement with the FC system, past housing and homelessness experiences, and current housing needs and preferences. Second, RAND will conduct a longitudinal qualitative interview effort that includes monthly data collection with up to 25 FC-involved TAY for up to one year. In these interviews, we will assess life goals, factors contributing to lack of housing or housing instability, and housing system and outcomes. This rich qualitative data will enable us to track changes over time in these outcomes and how they are related to other measures, such as health and well-being. This project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Understanding Evictions in LA County to Improve Homelessness Prevention Programming

Researchers have established that evictions are a risk factor for homelessness. However, little is known about the occurrence and causes of evictions within Los Angeles County. Additionally, Los Angeles County administers programs that provide short-term rental and legal assistance to income-eligible individuals facing evictions. However, given the lack of data on the location of evictions, eviction prevention programs may not effectively reach individuals at risk of being evicted. In this project, we are working with service organizations and housing providers to develop an interactive toolkit to support providers in identifying individuals at risk of eviction. We will leverage detailed disaggregated data we have collected on the occurrence of evictions within Los Angeles County. We will also attempt to link data on evictions with information on unhoused individuals to better understand the relationship between evictions and homelessness. This project is funded by the Homelessness Policy Research Institute with support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Evaluation of Breaking Barriers, an Adult Reentry Rental Assistance Grant Program

Breaking Barriers is a program is designed to provide scattered-site rapid re-housing and employment services to adults on felony probation who are experiencing homelessness or are precariously housed in Los Angeles County. During the early years of the program, RAND conducted a formative evaluation to provide early feedback to stakeholders on program progress and a summative evaluation examining initial program outcomes (Hunter et al. 2020). RAND is currently conducting a second evaluation of the program using both qualitative and quantitative approaches and a participatory, performance improvement approach. The process component of the evaluation aims to assess whether the established program is meeting process objectives, including linkage to rental assistance, employment and educational services, and community resources. The outcomes component of the evaluation will focus on employment, income, housing stability, and recidivism (exits from the program due to incarceration), as well as correlations between these outcomes and participant experiences and characteristics. Funding for the rental assistance program and evaluation are supported by a grant from the California Board of State and Community Corrections.

Past Projects

Determining the Feasibility of Developing a Comprehensive Data Tool of Housing Stock to Address Homelessness in Los Angeles

Despite the dramatic scope of homelessness in Los Angeles County, we lack a credible, comprehensive source of data on the housing stock available for addressing this issue. Creating a single source that measures the existing levels of housing can critically inform efforts to assess the appropriate mix of housing to best meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness (PEH).

In 2022, we published a tool that presented information from a wide array of sources on permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles County. In 2023, we expanded the database to also include deed-restricted affordable housing developments as well as residential settings that address physical, mental, and substance use treatment needs.

Bringing these diverse sources of information together and synthesizing into a functional, usable data tool will allow policy makers and housing planners to better understand the extent of housing supports available to PEH and help to better address the needs of this population moving forward. This project is funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Los Angeles County Housing Stock Map

An Evaluation of Crime-Free Housing Programs

In the state of California, over 90 cities have “crime-free housing programs,” which encourage or require private landlords and property managers to add supplemental agreements to leases, stating tenants in multifamily housing units can be evicted if they are arrested by law enforcement. Proponents of this policy state this leads to reduced property and violent crime rates in cities while detractors claim these policies lead to increased evictions and surveillance of low-income tenants.

This project aims to investigate the policy’s outcomes using contemporary causal inference methods and qualitative research methods. In addition, this project builds a new dataset for researchers concerning evictions, using records on “notices-of-restoration” obtained from all sheriff departments in the state of California.

Read the report Read the journal article

Homeless Service Sector Living Wage Study

This is a mixed method study that examines the living wage in LA County and contextualizes it in relationship to the wages provided in the homeless service sector. This project is funded by Social Justice Partners Los Angeles and Cedars Sinai.

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Social Justice Partners LA logo

Daytime Services Landscape Analysis

The study, undertaken between November 2022 and April 2023, reviewed Los Angeles County’s landscape of daytime services for people experiencing homelessness to inform United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ investment strategy in this sector. An important consideration for the investment strategy is to increase meaningful collaborations between nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, and public agencies. Therefore, we needed to know who is providing services? How are they currently funded and staffed? At what scale and physical capacity do they operate? What services are they providing? When and where? Do providers document their activities, and if so, how? This project is funded by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Read the report