Kaiser Permanente has gotten into the business of housing.
The health system announced in May that it would put $200 million toward initiatives targeting housing insecurity and homelessness in the communities it serves. On Tuesday night, it announced the first investment is the $5.2 million purchase of an affordable housing complex in Oakland, California, through a fund in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation.
The 41-unit building is in an Oakland neighborhood “on the brink of gentrification” which puts the existing residents at risk for displacement. By purchasing the building, it will be blocked from redevelopment that prices out the existing residents, preventing displacement, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said at a press event on Tuesday.
Preserving buildings like this is a “key component to addressing the national homelessness crisis,” he said. “We know that preserving affordable housing is more effective than building new units.”
It's part of a comprehensive strategy, officials said, to invest in addressing the economic, social and environmental conditions that ultimately affect the health of their patients.
Kaiser also announced it is “adopting” 500 homeless individuals in the city, Tyson said. He said that several of the system’s employees focused for 12 weeks to expedite a strategy to partner with community groups to house older homeless patients with chronic conditions.
All 500 people identified by the system have at least one chronic condition. The system is working with local groups to secure housing and other needed services for this group.
The plans unveiled by the system on Tuesday also expand beyond Oakland and the Bay Area, where Kaiser is headquartered. On top of the two initiatives focused in that region, Kaiser and Enterprise are teaming up to launch a $100 million loan fund to create or maintain affordable housing units in all of the communities Kaiser Permanente serves.
Tyson said the health system will make future announcements about specific plans under that fund. Tackling this issue, he said, “ties into who we are and what we’re about as Kaiser Permanente.”
“This is the beginning of us being in traffic and backing our talk that we want to help to make a difference in Oakland, in the Bay Area, in this great country,” Tyson said.