Los Angeles County has more homeless veterans than any other county in the United States.
Co-developers Mercy Housing California and New Directions for Veterans have worked to make a dent in that number by creating the first supportive housing development for veterans in the San Gabriel Valley.
El Monte Veterans Village, which was completed at the end of February, serves 40 chronically homeless, disabled veterans.
The leasing team—Mercy Housing Management, New Directions for Veterans and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—sought out some of the hardest-to-serve veterans for the development. They worked with local outreach groups, such as Vet Hunters, to locate some of the most vulnerable in the area.
This included a 78-year-old Navy veteran who had been homeless for decades and in poor health. The team worked quickly to cut down the processing time to get him into stable housing.
“Within a couple of weeks, this veteran went from living under a bridge into a furnished apartment,” says Ed Holder, regional vice president of real estate development for Mercy Housing California. “Seeing formerly homeless veterans move in, regain housing stability, and restore health is pretty transformative and underscores the significance of this work.”
All units receive project-based Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers so residents pay no more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent. The vouchers also have provided the project with two full-time VASH case managers, who help to link residents with the vast network of VA services. In addition, there is an on-site New Directions for Veterans resident service coordinator.
The development team also included veterans during the construction of the project. It awarded 33 percent of the construction contracts and subcontracts to veteran-owned businesses, and 10 percent of the construction labor force was made up of veterans.
El Monte Veterans Village features a large community room, an on-site medical office, a courtyard with a gas barbecue, a community garden with raised beds for residents’ usage, and a computer lab.
The development also includes a number of green features and is certified under Enterprise Green Communities. Solar thermal hot water heating provides approximately 82 percent of the building’s hot water needs; rooftop solar photovoltaic panels provide the majority of electricity needs for the common areas; a greywater system captures water from the laundry system and uses it for irrigating the landscaping; and efficient lighting, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems have been installed.
The $12.8 million project received local, county, state, and federal support. U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. provided $8.6 million in low-income housing tax credit equity. Other crucial financing came from the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles, the city of El Monte, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. The development team also utilized the federal business energy tax credit, which provided funds for 30 percent of the solar system, with U.S. Bancorp providing a direct tax credit investment.
“While El Monte Veterans Village is an important step, with an estimated 10,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County, there is significant work yet to be done,” says Holder.
Mercy Housing California expects to start on the first phase of a veterans project in Northern California by early December. It is partnering with Veterans Resource Centers of America on the 50-unit Mather Veterans Village in Rancho Cordova.