Bright Spot: San Diego, CA |Improving Landlord Relationships

February 28, 2020

Establish a clear central point of contact for intake of available units and interested landlords

Check out this Bright Spot If…

  • You want to foster better relationships with landlords
  • You want to house more veterans in scattered site private housing
  • You want to try it!


Establish a clear central point of contact for intake of available units and interested landlords. Create a 24-hour hotline for landlords to call if a tenant issue or crisis arises. Create a shared funding pool to incentivize landlords to rent to veterans with scattered-site vouchers or rental subsidies. Create a “landlord mitigation fund” to cover potential repair costs and unpaid rent. Create a website where interested landlords can learn about renting to those with subsides and indicate their willingness; in some instances, this website can also serve as a place to inventory available units. Encourage local PHA to take leadership role and request Extraordinary Admin Fee funding from HUD (when available) to staff landlord outreach and coordination of available units. Create shared standards across service providers for quick, consistent responses to landlords about available units; use radio and print advertising for outreach to new potential landlords. Publicly and regularly recognize landlords who rent to veterans in your homeless system. Build relationships and trust with potential landlords by attending apartment association meetings or other events where landlords are meeting. Approach potential landlords like donors or customers and frame conversation in terms of their interests. Identify landlord champions and train them to convene small groups of landlords and share about the benefits of working with veteran programs; note that small meetings produce better results.

Key Action: Housing our Heroes Program

The San Diego Housing Authority developed the Housing our Heroes program, and employed a landlord engagement strategy. They developed incentives and benefits packages ($500 for renting to a vet and then $250 for each vet henceforth). The Housing Authority sat down with landlords and also vets to better understand housing barriers. The Housing Authority also had money set aside ($2,500) for a risk mitigation fund that could be used in the event something went wrong with an apartment and that could be used to cover security deposits. 

The Housing Authority partnered with 15 service providers to identify veterans and developed a housing location website that all can access. They also established a 24-hour hotline that landlords could use to connect to supportive services staff, in the event there is a problem with a tenant. 

Key Action: Progressive Implementation

Because they are a city agency, it took a lot of steps to secure funding. They also couldn’t talk out right with the community at first. Because the Housing Authority started with focus groups, people were aware that something was coming. The Housing Authority did a lot of research leading into launching the incentives program. Through this process they were able to identify city and local funds, which are MUCH more flexible than federal dollars. This allows them to be innovative and is almost as a good as having philanthropic funding.

The Housing Authority designed ALL workflows around landlord, service providers and veteran engagement, figuring out internal logistics such as a how to pay landlords. 

Fail Forward Moments:

It was assumed that in developing the incentive program, people would jump at taking advantage of it. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen that way, at first because people didn’t understand the purpose. For instance, case managers did not want to give up their housing placements. 

To work better with case managers, they used pre-existing paperwork case managers were already familiar with. They also sought to reach veterans directly by doing outreach, and directed them to their partner CBOs & case managers. It helped them understand the specific needs of veterans and catch people who fall through the gaps. They ended up identifying other funding gaps that could help meet the need of people who weren’t being caught by the system because of certain requirements. 

The Housing Authority found they needed to improve how they work with communities to respond more quickly to landlords. If an opening happened, sometimes CBOs would respond a week or two weeks later and by then, openings had disappeared. 

For More Information

Contact Erica Snyder at the San Diego Housing Authority (