Building Housing – and New Hope – for Homeless Veterans
Building Housing – and New Hope – for Homeless Veterans
On any given night, there are more than 57,000 people homeless in Los Angeles County, according to the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority. More than 4,800 are men and women who once served our country – the highest number of homeless veterans in any county in the United States. In addition to their daily struggle to find shelter, many suffer from serious health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental illness or substance abuse.
The town of El Monte has taken action to stem this crisis and help create affordable housing for homeless veterans and their families through a new project called Palo Verde Apartments. More than half of the forty-nine units in this affordable housing development are earmarked for veterans and their families. Capital One is proud to be a part of this important effort, the ribbon cutting for which took place in January 2019.
“We want El Monte to set the standard for all of California [in how we treat homeless veterans],” said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero. “As a country, we put these individuals in the line of fire. When they come back to us, it’s our obligation as a community to embrace them, and support them.”
Moving forward with community support
Among those who took up the Mayor’s call to action is Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC), which develops affordable housing and provides supportive services for low-income families, seniors and special needs individuals. “We had the good fortune to find a site in El Monte that was ideal,” remarked Sarah Letts, Executive Director of HCHC.
HCHC partnered with two nonprofit supportive service providers, Housing Works and New Directions for Veterans, to provide free onsite support services to tenants. Services including intensive case management, substance abuse treatment, and linkages to mental and physical healthcare will be available to all tenants, with a special focus on the specific needs of veterans who have been homeless for prolonged periods.
Multiple veteran-owned businesses were involved in building it. The project was headed by Alpha Construction. Irv Laxineta, Alpha’s president, served in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve for nearly a decade. He was drawn to the Palo Verde project because of the positive impact it will have for his fellow veterans: “One of the main reasons I am still working, after 60 years in the business, is the satisfaction I get from working on projects that are providing housing and services so desperately needed by so many veterans.”
Irv tapped another veteran, Ryan Tittsworth, president of vets-owned RBT Electric, to be the electrical subcontractor for the project. Ryan was an electrician in the Army between 1997 and 2001 and is a third-generation veteran. Like Irv, he is deeply committed to helping homeless veterans: “There needs to be more . . . projects like this, so we don’t have a homeless issue for people who have given so much of their lives to our country.”
Setting an example
After months and years of planning and hard work, the Palo Verde housing development is now here. All the apartments in the four-story building will be affordable to households earning at or below 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI). Twenty-five apartments will be reserved for formerly homeless veterans and their families.
If Mayor Andre Quintero has his way, there will be more developments like Palo Verde in El Monte. In his words: “The city of El Monte is committed to supporting our veterans and making sure that they receive the resources necessary to have a successful life. To anyone interested in developing affordable housing for vets come to El Monte, we will embrace you.”
With thousands of homeless veterans still struggling in California and across the nation, the El Monte/Palo Verde approach of dedication, perseverance and partnership can serve as a model for other communities around the country. As Sarah Letts of HCHC summed up, “I’m so grateful there are so many people willing to step up, work hard and make these important decisions.”
Pulling together the financing
Finding financing for projects like Palo Verde is complicated because they typically combine funding from numerous sources, including federal and local government support, as well as the private sector.
HCHC worked with New Directions for Veterans and other partners to develop a financing strategy. They applied and received funding from the California Department of Housing and Community Development. They also received a construction and permanent loan in addition to funds from L.A. County and the City of El Monte, in addition to grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, The Home Depot Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Citi Community Development Bring Them Homes initiative, and National Equity Fund.
The other critical piece of funding involved an equity investment from the sale of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). The California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC), which administers the program for the state of California, awarded Palo Verde a $1,385,751 LIHTC allocation. National Equity Fund (NEF), a nonprofit LIHTC syndicator and partner in the transaction, turned to Capital One to purchase all of credits.
“NEF came to Capital One because they knew we wanted to see a good housing development with a good developer for a good purpose succeed,” said David Musial, a Director at Capital One Community Finance (COCF). COCF is an integrated provider of all forms of capital needed for development of affordable housing: construction loans, term financing, equity investments and social service grants. “We knew this funding was critical to moving the Palo Verde development forward,” added Musial.
Ultimately, Capital One provided a $17.4 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit investment, which closed at the end of 2017.