Real estate executive Preston Butcher and his wife, Carolyn Butcher, have donated $1.5 million to the ULI Foundation to create the ULI Homeless to Housed Initiative to identify and disseminate best practices that enable communities to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness.

“ULI has had an interest in this topic for quite some time, but for the most part we haven’t had the financial support to take a strong, focused look at it until now,” says Ed Walter, global chief executive officer of the Institute.

“A variety of trends have impacted our communities the last several years and exacerbated the problem: the pandemic, the increased cost of housing, and rising interest rates, as well as the fact that so many of our communities fight the creation of more housing in general,” he continues. “All that has come together to create a homelessness situation that’s probably as bad as it’s ever been. We’ve got to help show jurisdictions how they can address this intelligently from a real estate perspective and help them build the case that their constituents should support these efforts.”

The initiative will be part of ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing and will build on Homeless to Housed: The ULI Perspective Based on Actual Case Studies, a report that Butcher coauthored and helped fund. Published in June 2022, the report includes case studies of eight successful developments around the United States that provide housing for the homeless. Each case study includes development and operational pro formas as well as funding sources, innovative practices, and outcomes.

The Butchers’ gift will enable the Terwilliger Center to establish a national working group of key leaders involved in the funding, design, development, and operations of temporary and permanent affordable housing. The initiative will research and document more case studies and share best practices through the Institute’s channels and beyond.

“While the Butchers’ generous gift has launched this initiative, its true impact will only be realized if we find other ULI members who are willing to provide further support,” Walter says. “Our goal is to raise an additional $1.5 million to match his commitment.”

“If we can get examples of these affordable housing projects that work well into the hands of people who have interest in doing them, they will have a model to work from,” says Preston Butcher, chairman of Legacy Partners in Foster City, California.

A longtime ULI member and a past member of the Institute’s board of trustees, he notes that large companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to help create affordable housing. By showing these case studies to corporate donors, “you can attract more people who would be interested in developing these projects, and you can attract capital, because you have a model of what works.”

Mary Beth Corrigan, ULI’s executive vice president of global leadership, adds that sharing this information with the public sector as well is crucial.

“So many communities, for example, have minimum building footprints, parking minimums, and other requirements that add to the cost of building housing,” she points out. “In an urban area, a homeless person probably doesn’t need to worry about parking; they need to worry about shelter. Policymakers have a role to play in changing some of these requirements that make it more difficult to create housing for the homeless.”

Another Homeless to Housed coauthor, Marty Borko, executive director of ULI Los Angeles, says that the report has already been an important tool in the district council’s efforts to address homelessness.

“The report came out right before ULI Los Angeles’s second regional summit on the homeless crisis, and we’ve shared it with all of the summit’s registrants as well as with our membership,” he says. “It’s a great template in terms of trying to understand the key metrics from a real estate development perspective, and we are using it to create our own case studies.”

Butcher was formerly chairman and chief executive officer of Legacy Partners Commercial in Foster City. He cofounded the National Multifamily Housing Council, for which he is past chairman of the board of directors and a current member of the executive committee. He is also a cofounder and a director of the California Housing Council; a member of the policy advisory board of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley; a founding board member of the nonprofit housing corporation BRIDGE; a former director of BRE Properties Inc.; a former director of NorthStar Realty Finance Corp.; and a past overseer of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

RON NYREN is a freelance architecture, urban planning, and real estate writer based in the San Francisco Bay area.