The Home Zone Initiative    

“Where do families go when they cannot afford the rent for housing?”

“How do they maintain a roof over their children’s heads?”

We decided to ask those questions in the Los Angeles Promise Zone.

What Are Promise Zones?

Launched through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Promise Zones are former President Barak Obama’s signature anti-poverty initiative, and the City of Los Angeles was chosen as one of the first five Promise Zone locations in the nation in 2014. There are currently 23 Promise Zones nation-wide, including a second Promise Zone in the City of Los Angeles covering multiple South Los Angeles neighborhoods.

The first Los Angeles Promise Zone, now in its sixth year, is comprised of five diverse neighborhoods: parts of Hollywood, East Hollywood, Koreatown, Pico Union, and Westlake/MacArthur Park.

Targeting resources to create jobs, boost public safety, improve public education and stimulate better housing opportunities for Los Angeles residents and neighborhoods, the effort prioritizes four related goals: advancing economic opportunity, improving education, making neighborhoods safe, and building sustainable, livable places.

The “Home Zone Collective Impact Initiative”

In collaboration with HUD and other stakeholders, the Home Zone Task Force identified strategies and opportunities to facilitate the development of “Housing Safety Nets” for LA Promise Zone neighborhoods. The Home Zone Task Force was one of two task forces evolving from LA Promise Zone “Working Groups.” Home Zone Task Force activities focused on three distinct areas: Housing Interventions, Poor Housing Quality, and Rental Housing Innovations.

Low-income rental housing stock in the LA Promise Zone is composed primarily of studios (29 percent) and one bedroom apartments (45 percent), many constructed in the early 1900s.

Historically, the studio and one-bedroom apartment rentals in the LA Promise Zone and adjacent neighborhoods provided lower level housing for single individuals, couples, and the elderly or disabled living on fixed incomes or entitlements. These traditional residents were “priced out” over the years – a contributing factor to the increase in homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles today. To stay off the streets, low-income families have been forced into inadequate and overcrowded living conditions, while experiencing severe rent burden, high rates of residential displacement, and homelessness.

In 2020, one Promise Zone neighborhood, Westlake-Pico Union, experienced the highest numbers of COVID-19 deaths in LA County. The Pandemic illuminated the challenges to social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and isolating people possibly exposed to, exhibiting symptoms of, or testing positive for the virus. With continuing loss of jobs, evictions, and more families moving in together, PFC began focusing on overcrowded living conditions and ways to ameliorate them.

A major strategy that emerged was the vital need for improved coordination and cross-sector collaboration among Partner agenciesschools, child and family services, neighborhood and community development, healthcare, and legal aidand among government entities, philanthropy, the private sector, and civil society.

 The Home Zone Task Force completed its work in 2021, with “lessons learned” in the LA Promise Zone integrated into an online training curriculum for the development of “Housing Safety Nets,” adaptable to urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods across the country.