What’s Next for America’s Homelessness Crisis?

What’s Next for America’s Homelessness Crisis?


The experts in the field — and on the streets — on solutions in 2023

With little hope for any measurable near-term improvement, the homelessness crises around the U.S. are set to overshadow any economic recovery in the nation’s densest regions.

It’s at the point that, as her first move as leader of Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass in December declared a state of emergency, which was quickly approved by the city council, to bolster the ability of the nation’s second-largest city to get people off the streets. The order gives Bass the power to lift regulations that slow or prevent permanent and temporary housing developments, and it allows the city to acquire rooms, properties and land for housing.

While Los Angeles remains ground zero for homelessness in America, the problem spreads well beyond Southern California. There are an estimated 7,750 people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco — a city with a total population of about 815,200 people. In New York City, homelessness has hit the highest levels since the Great Depression, according to Coalition for the Homeless, a charity, after 102,660 people stayed in the shelter system throughout 2022. That figure does not include the people sleeping on streets, in cars or on friends’ floors.

Nationwide, it’s difficult to find consensus figures, particularly after the pandemic halted large-scale efforts to collect data. As of January 2020, there were an estimated 580,500 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S., according to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, but the crisis is widely believed to have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and record levels of inflation, much of which is fueled by rising apartment rents.

Commercial Observer sought out housing and real estate experts to get reactions to L.A.’s state of emergency, and to ask the big question: What should we do about this? 

Commercial Observer: What’s your general reaction to a city like L.A. declaring a state of emergency over the homelessness crisis?

Sean Burton,CEO of multifamily development firm Cityview:
I think it’s a great idea. [Bass] campaigned on the idea of declaring a state of emergency on day one as mayor so that she would have more powers to make decisions and execute on them quickly. It’s also a signal to everyone in city government that addressing homelessness is job one. The declaration is just a starting point. Now the hard work needs to happen.

Will Herbig, head of the Homeless to Housed initiative for Urban Land Institute:
There is a homeless crisis that is perpetuated by growing unaffordability of the housing market due to restrictions such as zoning, setbacks, density regulations that just simply are making housing production difficult and in some cases unattainable.

It requires new solutions, new approaches, innovative thinking and more attention to the issue.

Sonnet Hui, general manager and vice president at Project Management Advisors, which is heavily involved with the Weingart Center Tower, a 382-unit permanent supportive housing (PSH) development in L.A.’s Skid Row:
There has been a long history of policies like redlining, and the deinstitutionalization of medical asylums, and other covenants that created this crisis. And I think the pandemic has only made the situation worse. … People need to understand how complex the issue is and how it has taken 50 to 60 years to get to this point, so it’s going to take a long time to resolve.

Tom Bagamane, chairman and founder of nonprofit The Giving Spirit:
I think [Bass’ move] is long overdue, and I’m glad that she took those major steps. … For the last year, there’s been so much rhetoric around “housing first” — and I don’t want anyone to think we’re not a big proponent of PSH: a roof is the ultimate solution for anyone who’s out there on the streets. But there’s so many other things that need to be addressed before that person can concede to housing.

What else needs to be done? Are there proven strategies that should be implemented? 

Steve Glenn, CEO of modular construction firm Plant Prefab, a developer of prefabricated homes:
Big picture, it’s really expensive to build anything. Land costs aren’t going to go down — they are what they are. So we’re really talking about, “What can you do to make the construction process more efficient?” Material costs are what they are. Maybe you can get creative with the materials. But, if you can make the construction process more efficient, that’ll help you get housing completed on a faster schedule, and potentially for lower costs. That’s our focus.

More and more construction in this country is moving off-site, including affordable housing. What people are finding is that by working with a prefabricated method versus the traditional site-based method, you can save time and create greater reliability for scheduling. Sometimes, you can save money, not always.

Sonnet Hui:
It has to be multi-pronged and address the root causes of homelessness. … We have to provide access to mental health services. There needs to be access to drug treatment. … 

Building high-density, PSH projects with wraparound services in areas where there’s a high concentration of homelessness is probably step one. Weingart facilities provide a host of programs — everything from addiction to mental health to physical health programs, job training, debt reduction programs. And the goal really is to break the cycle of homelessness.

Sean Burton:
One strategy that works is master-leasing hotels and motels, and moving the unhoused in immediately to allow the city to clear the biggest encampments and to get people off the street. …

But to solve homelessness in the long run, we need to build hundreds of thousands of new housing units over the next few years — for the homeless — but also government-subsidized affordable housing and critical workforce and market-rate housing for everyone else. Fundamentally, this is a supply and demand problem. We simply have fallen far short of our obligations as a city and region to build the housing necessary to address homelessness and housing affordability.

Will Herbig:
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the growing crisis of homelessness. There’s a spectrum. There are those that are chronically homeless and require a great degree of wraparound services. And then there are simply those that are ‘nearly unhoused.’ They are one paycheck away. They’re one rent payment away from being unsheltered and unhoused. You have got to tackle the crisis at both ends of the spectrum. … There’s people in L.A. and in the Bay Area that may be professional workers that actually don’t have a home. They are going to a job every day and they are maybe living in a van or in a car and still making it to work. 

At ULI, we recently launched the Homeless to Housed initiative, and we’re beginning to look at what is the responsibility of the commercial real estate industry, the land development industry, in tackling this issue because it shouldn’t be left up to elected officials and policymakers. It really requires a partnership of local leaders, developers, and land use professionals to tackle this collectively. 

We’re beginning to spotlight the best practices, and we published earlier this year a report called Homeless to Housed that identifies eight innovative solutions to addressing homelessness across that spectrum. … And we’re going to be rolling out three to four additional spotlights of best practices every six months to inform our members which are primarily land use and real estate professionals across the United States and beyond.

What are the main obstacles?

Steven Glenn:
It’s just expensive for anyone to build anything in expensive areas. In particular, you’ve got high labor costs and scarcer labor — a lot of construction labor that left during the downturn from 2008 to 2012, they never came back.

Sonnet Hui:
We see a lot of nonprofit developers who build PSH, but they’re usually small-scale: it’s 50 units here, 60 units there. I mean, we’re talking just in the city of L.A. alone I think it’s 42,000 individuals who are experiencing homelessness. So, 50 to 60 units, that’s like a drop in the bucket. Even the Weingart towers … it’s still a small portion of the problem.

In California and L.A., the challenge is always land costs, and then we have the most complicated and convoluted processes to build anything. From a political point of view, if they can streamline the processes: [California Environmental Quality Act], permitting and updating zoning codes, then you can get housing — not just PSH, but housing at all levels: affordable housing, market-rate housing, luxury housing, so there’s options and variety.

Usually, funding comes through a host of different sources: local, state and federal. The problem with that is usually the local requirements are different from the state, and they’re different from federal. Then you need someone to manage the process because you don’t want to lose the funding source or miss a deadline … so you actually end up spending more time and energy on managing all the various financing sources. And sometimes, PSH is more expensive to build that market-rate housing because there’s so many layers of requirements.

Tom Bagamane:
It’s tough for people to understand, but for as long as this has been a problem, it’s going to take time for improvement. Taking a blanket and just throwing it over L.A. County — with 70,000 people experiencing homelessness — and saying, “Let’s fix it by getting everybody under the blanket” — you can’t do that. Each individual is unique, and if we don’t look at them that way, then how are they ever going to trust us?

Will Herbig:
A big part of homelessness is it’s not just a social service or mental health crisis. It is a housing production crisis. … Our housing production numbers have not kept pace with our population growth. … What would traditionally have been naturally occurring, affordable housing gets gobbled up and redone by developers and turned into luxury condos. It’s fewer units in the pipeline that are affordable, and then there’s nowhere else to turn.

What else can or should the commercial real estate community do to help?

Sean Burton:
Build as much housing as they can at all levels. … We should also support government programs that help the neediest get the services they need. The mayor can’t solve this alone. This will require an all-hands-on-deck approach. 

Also, communities often are frustrated with the homeless population and encampments in their neighborhoods, but then vigorously oppose any new housing — homeless or otherwise — that is proposed to be built near where they live. As a city, we need to support new housing projects — of all levels — to get the unhoused off the street, to clean up our encampments, and to create a Los Angeles where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

Read more: https://commercialobserver.com/2023/01/whats-next-for-americas-homelessness-crisis/

Sarah Hunt

Senior Associate, Business Development & Capital Relations

Ms. Hunt joined Cityview in 2021 and is a Senior Associate on the Business Development & Capital Relations team.  She is primarily responsible for relationship management, investor communications, and marketing collateral.  Additionally, she works closely with internal functional teams on due diligence efforts and supports investor reporting and special projects.  She is also a member of Cityview’s Sustainability Committee focused on communication of ESG initiatives to investors.

Ms. Hunt has over six years of real estate investment, capital formation, and investor relations experience.  Prior to joining Cityview, she was an Associate with Chicago-based Magnolia Capital.  During her tenure, she worked on equity capital raises for numerous real estate investment vehicles.  Prior to Magnolia, Ms. Hunt was a Financial Analyst with LaSalle Investment Management where she oversaw the financial performance of assets with over $1 billion in value.

Ms. Hunt received her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance, Investment, and Banking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ramtin Esfandiari

Director, Acquisitions

Ramtin Esfandiari joined Cityview in 2018 and is responsible for managing acquisitions, including sourcing, underwriting and closing multifamily development deals. Prior to joining Cityview, Ramtin was on the Acquisitions team at The Bascom Group where he underwrote over $9 billion in multifamily acquisitions across the U.S. and supported all aspects of the acquisition process. Ramtin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Irvine, and is an active member of Urban Land Institute.

Jonathan Anderson


Jonathan Anderson is the Controller of Cityview and provides leadership and oversight over the finance, accounting, and shared services departments.  Prior to joining the Cityview team, Jonathan worked at CIM Group where he held several finance and accounting roles during his tenure, most recently as head of private fund reporting and prior to that as director of SEC reporting for one of CIM Group’s publicly traded REITs.  Jonathan began his career in Ernst & Young’s assurance practice where he served both public and private clients in the real estate and asset management industries.  Jonathan graduated from the University of Southern California with both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in real estate finance.

Tina O’ Brien

HR Manager

Tina O’Brien, HR Manager, is a national and state-certified HR Professional (SHRM-CP, PHRca), overseeing all aspects of Human Resources for both Cityview and Westhome employees. Her experience spans the spectrum of the HR field, including recruitment, employee relations, performance management, benefits, compliance and employee development. She joined Cityview in summer 2021 from a telecom technology firm in Van Nuys, and previously worked for a private real estate investment and property management company in Beverly Hills. Tina is an LA native and she’s committed to helping grow our vibrant, healthy corporate culture here at Cityview.

Noah Watts-Russell

Director Asset Management
Noah Watts-Russell is Director, Asset Management of Cityview. As Director of Asset Management, he oversees Cityview’s value-add portfolio and is responsible for establishing and driving the portfolio business plans to maximize performance and value. Prior to joining Cityview, Noah was an Associate in the Real Estate division at The Blackstone Group where he oversaw over $15bn in multifamily real estate (>70,000 units, covering market rate, affordable and rent-controlled) and worked on over $2bn in total sales and $1bn in refinancing. Prior to Blackstone, Noah managed the FP&A team at LivCor, Blackstone’s multifamily asset management company. Noah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Economics from Washington University in St. Louis.

Denise Katz

Director Asset Management

Denise Katz manages Cityview’s core and development assets across multiple investment vehicles and is responsible for maximizing the operational and financial performance of the assets.  Denise has over twelve years of experience in real estate. Prior to joining Cityview, Denise was Regional Vice President at CIM Group of a $2.4 billion portfolio in the Western US and Latin American markets. During her time at CIM, she managed end-to-end transitions of development projects, acquisitions, and dispositions of office, multifamily, retail, parking, condominium, and mixed-use projects. She holds a double major Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Psychology from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Steve Roberts

Director, Development and Construction
Steve Roberts is responsible for the development of several of Cityview’s ground-up multi-family assets, including due diligence, design, entitlement, permitting, construction, and market delivery. Prior to joining Cityview, Steve managed several nationally award-winning projects as Vice President of Development for Community Dynamics, a Santa Monica based developer of residential and mixed-use communities. Steve has built his career on creating exceptional communities that deliver high-quality housing to residents, first-rate design for neighbors and municipalities, as well as strong financial returns to investors. Steve holds a BA in Urban Studies and Planning from UCSD and earned an MBA and Master of Real Estate Development from the University of Southern California.

Anh Le

Director, Development

After 8 years in the construction industry managed complex multi-use development projects, Anh Le joined Cityview in 2018 as Director of Development. Le manages ground-up developments in Northern and Southern California and leads consultant teams through entitlement, design, permitting, budgeting, contracting, construction management and project turnover. She works closely with designers, neighborhood groups and Cityview’s in-house Asset Management team to deliver best-in-class multifamily projects. Prior to Cityview, Le worked as a project engineer and project manager at Cobalt Construction. Le holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.

Kyle Naye

Senior Director, Acquisitions

Kyle Naye is Senior Director, Acquisitions of Cityview.  As Senior Director of Acquisitions, he is responsible for managing acquisitions, including sourcing, underwriting, closing and developing comprehensive business plans for investors.  Naye primarily focuses on non-California markets across the Western U.S., including Seattle, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and Austin.  In his role, Naye works closely with the Cityview team to manage and expand strategic acquisitions across the firm’s vertically integrated platform.

Prior to joining Cityview, Naye was a vice president of originations at PGIM Real Estate, where he provided transactions and underwriting oversight for core-plus and high-yield debt vehicles. He also held a prior role at PGIM managing the underwriting, investment committee preparation and closing of $992 million in multifamily, retail and office assets across the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. At earlier stages of his career, Naye was a senior associate of acquisitions at Clarion Partners, senior real estate analyst at Northmarq and an officer in the United States Navy.

Zory Grigoryan

Director, Development

As Director of Development, Zory Grigoryan is responsible for the full cycle development of several of Cityview’s projects, which includes managing the due diligence, underwriting, entitlement, design engineering, construction processes and turnover to asset management. Prior to joining Cityview, Grigoryan worked for Oakmont Capital as a Project Manager overseeing the development and construction of several multifamily projects. Prior to that, he worked at Cobalt Construction as a Project Manager on the construction of numerous mixed use and multifamily projects. During his career, Grigoryan has been responsible for the development, preconstruction and construction of over 1,500 units.

Grigoryan holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Construction Management from the California State University of Northridge, where he was the top ranked graduate of his year. During his time at Cobalt Construction, Grigoryan was also selected as distinguished alumni by the CSUN department faculty and appointed as ambassador for alumni recruitment by CSUN construction management department’s board of governors committee.

Chris Brown

Director, Capital Relations

Chris Brown is responsible for capital raising and investor relations at Cityview. Chris has over seven years of real estate investment and capital raising experience. Prior to joining Cityview, he was a member of the Fund Advisory team at JLL working on equity capital raises for private real estate investment vehicles. Prior to JLL, Chris worked on the Portfolio Management team at Clarion Partners and the Asset Management team at LaSalle Investment Management. Chris graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s Degrees in Finance and Real Estate. He is a general securities representative.

Dana Gomez-Gayne

Vice President and Associate General Counsel

Dana Gomez-Gayne manages the legal aspects of all project-related matters, including acquisition, development, management and disposition, and advises Cityview on corporate formation and maintenance, insurance, risk management and other legal matters. She was previously an Associate at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP where she represented a variety of clients in real estate, project development and finance transactions. Gomez-Gayne also has a background in fundraising development and worked at Teach For America raising philanthropic funds from regional and national corporations and foundations. She is a graduate of Pomona College and Pepperdine University School of Law.

Chase Ballard

Vice President, Construction Management
Chase Ballard is Vice President of Construction Management at Cityview. He is responsible for overseeing the Construction Management team and their daily operations. Chase and his team are involved in every stage of our value add renovation opportunities, from pre-acquisition through project completion, executing projects that include interior renovations, common area improvements and deferred maintenance. Prior to joining Cityview, Chase was a Director of Capital Projects with Greystar Real Estate Partners.​

Rob Lester

Managing Director, Business Development & Capital Relations
Rob Lester is responsible for business development and capital formation efforts for the Firm’s investment platforms, developing strategic growth initiatives, and creating long-term relationships with investors and partners. He has nearly 25 years of investment banking and private capital formation experience. Prior to joining Cityview, he was Managing Director with Macquarie Capital, and a Managing Principal with Blackstone. ​

Con Howe

Managing Director

Con Howe leads Cityview’s partnerships to finance, assemble and entitle land for development in the greater Los Angeles area. With over 40 years of experience in planning, entitlements and development, he assists all Cityview funds with acquisitions and development strategies. Prior to coming to Cityview he was the Director of Planning for the City of Los Angeles responsible for the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance and zoning to encourage infill housing. Previously he was the Executive Director of the New York City Planning Department.

Shane Robinson

Vice President, Property Management
Shane Robinson is Vice President of Property Management responsible for overseeing Westhome Property Management and their daily operations. Shane has over 20 years of experience overseeing multifamily properties. Previously, Shane was the Regional Vice President for Sunrise Management responsible for the expansion and management for its Los Angeles portfolio. Prior to that he was Regional Portfolio Manager for GHP Management. ​

Melissa B. Delgado

VP, Asset Management
Melissa Delgado is responsible for overseeing Cityview’s asset management and portfolio operations. Prior to joining Cityview, Melissa was a Senior Director at TruAmerica Multifamily LLC where she was responsible for achieving the investment objectives of an $800 million portfolio. Earlier in her career, Melissa was an asset manager for Kennedy Wilson’s Southern California portfolio. Prior to that, she was a Vice President and Head of Marketing at Kepler Capital Markets, an investment bank in New York. ​

Devang Shah

Managing Director, Acquisitions

Devang Shah is co-head of Cityview’s acquisitions activities on the West Coast. He has 25 years of experience in real estate investment, development, design, construction and asset management. Previously, Devang was the principal of Marketcents Inc., an independent project management firm, serving as an owner’s representative to investment firms, builders and developers. Prior to that, he worked was Vice-President at RCLCo, LLC, a national independent real estate consulting firm. ​

Adam Perry

Senior Vice President, Development and Construction
Adam Perry oversees all aspects of the commercial real estate development process from acquisition due diligence and entitlement processing through design budgeting, contracting, construction management, closeout and turnover. Prior to joining Cityview, Adam worked at CIM group as an Associate Vice President of Development overseeing ground up retail, office and mixed-use developments. ​ Adam holds a BA Degree in Political Science and History from UCLA and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Matthew Falley

General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer
Matt Falley oversees and directs the company’s legal affairs and is the firm’s Chief Compliance Officer. Matt was previously a partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP, where he represented numerous clients in the real estate industry, including Cityview. Matt holds a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), where he was a member of “California Law Review” and Order of the Coif.​

Tony Cardoza

Managing Director, Acquisitions
Tony Cardoza is responsible for Cityview’s acquisition activities throughout the West Coast. He has 21 years of experience in real estate investment and management. Previously, Tony ran the investment group for Real Estate Capital Partners in the Western U.S., which developed and acquired over 5,000 multifamily units. Prior to that, he worked for Prometheus Real Estate Group in a land and multifamily acquisitions role on the West Coast. Tony holds a B.A. in Economics from Middlebury College and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.​

Jennifer Halvas

Managing Director, Investor Relations and Associate General Counsel
Jennifer Halvas leads the firm’s investor relations team, where she is responsible for maintaining relationships with the investor community, bolstering infrastructure for new and existing investors and helping to develop investment strategies and initiatives. She has been instrumental in securing capital needs for several Cityview funds across a broad base of institutional investors, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, family offices and high-net-worth investors. A 12-year veteran of Cityview, she uses her deep institutional knowledge to create value for investors and the communities in which Cityview works.
She was previously at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, where she represented a variety of clients in real estate, project development and finance transactions. Jennifer holds a B.A. with honors from the University of Southern California and a JD from Vanderbilt Law School.

Damian Gancman

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Damian Gancman oversees the operations of Cityview and its investments while supporting the strategic growth of its finance, acquisition, asset management and property management functions. An 18-year veteran of the firm, Damian is also a partner at Cityview and a member of its investment committee. As CFO, he helped build out Cityview’s best-in-class finance department, including the implementation of strategic process, accounting, reporting and technology improvements that enhance the investor experience.

In addition to his role at Cityview, Damian is a guest lecturer for the University of Southern California’s Master of Real Estate Development program and is a key contributor to the Cityview Leadership Academy. Damian earned a master’s degree in real estate development from the University of Southern California and a dual bachelor’s degree in business administration and psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Sean Burton

Chief Executive Officer
Sean Burton has been with Cityview since 2003. Prior to joining Cityview, Sean was vice president of corporate business development and strategy at Warner Bros. Before that, he was an attorney in the real estate and corporate groups at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP and also served in the White House during the Clinton Administration. From 2013 to 2021, Sean served as President of the Board of Airport Commissioners which oversees the LAX and Van Nuys airports. Sean holds a B.A. from the University of California, Irvine and a JD from New York University School of Law.