Implementing the Housing First model is the top focus for nearly half of the respondents in a recent survey of the supportive housing field.

A little more than 49 percent say they are deploying Housing First or “harm reduction” models of housing. The next two innovations being put into action are integrated supportive/affordable housing (46.4 percent) and housing for veterans (31.1 percent), according to the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) study.

“The State of the Supportive Housing Industry” report also serves as a crystal ball to what may be on the horizon.

 “I was happily surprised to see that there is more appetite among public housing authorities (PHAs) to do supportive housing,” said Deborah De Santis, CSH president and CEO. “CSH is working nationally to engage PHAs and strengthen their ability to create new supportive housing or add services to existing public housing, so it was great to see reaffirmation of interest from the field.”

Support for supportive housing among PHAs jumped to 69 percent from 61 percent last year.

Other breakthroughs may also be on the way. About 38.5 percent have plans to leverage Medicaid for supportive housing, a big jump from the 17 percent that is actively implementing this now.

Integrating community health clinics and supportive housing is also in the future plans for more than one-third of the respondents, up from the 17.4 percent that’s actively implementing this model.

Interestingly, while only 4.3 percent say they are currently implementing supportive housing for Native American populations, 16 percent say they hope to do so in the future.

At the same time the industry pushes new types of housing and practices, it is feeling the effects of the recession. More than 40 percent of the respondents report that acquisition and construction funding is less available than the prior year.

“The issue of financing is certainly a difficult one,” De Santis said. “Fortunately, we’re seeing more and more communities and developers committing to supportive housing. But hard financial times mean that they’re forced to get more creative about how those projects are financed. The result? A project that used to take three years now takes five. So while timeframes have been extended, the good news is that there is still a strong pipeline for supportive housing development.”

Low-income housing tax credit equity remains the most widely used funding source for the development of supportive housing followed by the HOME and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs, said CSH.

About 78.5 percent of the respondents report using tax credit funds, up from 75.5 percent from the year before. About 67.4 percent say they use HOME and CDBG funds, down from 70 percent.

When it comes to operating costs, Sec. 8 is the most popular source used by 68.1 percent, an increase from 65.9 percent last year. Shelter Plus Care is next with 61.6 percent. The key financing for supportive service is Continuum of Care funding, which is used by nearly 62 percent of the respondents, down from nearly 68 percent.