In-Depth: New affordable housing CEO brings blueprint for success

Wakeland CEO has track record of ending homelessness
Posted at 5:52 AM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 10:09:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The new CEO of Wakeland Housing and Development comes with a track record of success building affordable homes that help end homelessness. Now, she plans to make sure that continues.

CEO Rebecca Louie has been with Wakeland for 18 years. In that time, she's overseen the development of 41 projects and 2,200 affordable homes.

"I love this organization," Louie says. "I love the work that we do. I love the people that we get to do it with. And I love the transformative effect that we've had on so many people's lives."

Since 1998, Wakeland, a non-profit, has been responsible for building 7,500 affordable housing units. Louie wants to build even more over the next 25 years.

"I want to go into every community here in San Diego and make sure that they have something like this," she says. "I'm going to be showing people that it works that this is the one and only solution to solving homelessness is providing these types of affordable and supportive homes."

In addition to just building homes, Louie says it's important to build a community. That's what has made Wakeland's developments successful. She says their projects have a 90% success rate for keeping people out of homelessness.

To build a community, every project at Wakeland comes with wraparound social services. Residents have access to on-site assistance.

They also have community rooms, fitness centers, and small spaces that residents can make their own.

"We can't just build it and walk away. It wouldn't be successful," she says. "These are the little things that make a difference, but that's what keeps people housed, and helps them succeed."

It also takes funding, and Louie is an expert at cutting through the red tape and cobbling together millions of dollars from state and local funds to take affordable housing from an idea to a reality.

"You cannot build this without a lot of local dollars, state dollars, and federal dollars," says Louie. "We have projects that sometimes have 13 or 14 different funding sources."

She says it takes a special amount of expertise and persistence to build affordable housing. Louie has plenty of both. Those traits help her win over skeptical neighbors when projects face backlash from the community.

"What always helps is taking them and showing them positive examples of it being done," she explains. "You meet the people living there, who are amazing. That takes away your fears... You can talk all day about how great it is. But when you show them that makes all the difference in the world."

As CEO, she plans to put all of that together and make Wakeland Housing more effective at building affordable housing projects in Southern California. She says they've created the blueprint for success, and want to keep building.

"Housing combined with services is how you end homelessness. There's no other answer."