On May 2, 2023, elected officials, dignitaries, community leaders, advocates, Veterans and VA staff gathered at the West LA VA for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate two new permanent supportive housing buildings for formerly homeless Veterans on campus.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass were among those who took the stage to talk about the newly remodeled Building 205 (containing 67 units) and Building 208 (containing 53 units).
“It is so appropriate that we honor our Veterans who put their lives on the line for this country,” Mayor Bass said. “And we know so many of our Veterans have suffered out there for too long and the idea that their suffering would come to an end when they move in a place like this, this beautiful campus, I think is exactly the type of way we need to honor and pay tribute to people who sacrificed for our country.”
The new properties were developed through a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs, which offered up the outdated and underutilized buildings, and Shangri-La Construction, Step Up on Second and Friendship for Affordable Housing (FFA).
The two buildings join two other properties for formerly homeless Veterans on campus, the first four of many planned as part of the West LA VA Master Plan. Building 209 opened in 2017 and provides 54 units and Building 207 opened in early 2023 and provides 59 units.
In total, the VA property will eventually have at least 1,200 units as part of a fully connected and supportive community.
Buildings 205 and 208 contain furnished studio and one-bedroom units, including units for Veterans with disabilities. Onsite amenities include indoor and outdoor community areas, reading and activity rooms, laundry facilities, smart TVs, and paid Wi-Fi and utilities. Veteran referrals are in place for all units.
Housing construction on the VA campus is possible through Enhanced Use Leases (EULs) which allow VA to lease underutilized property to private developers who then use it to build permanent supportive housing for Veterans.
In addition to the VA secretary and mayor, others who spoke included Step Up on Second President Tod Lipka; Councilmember Traci Park; Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin; Air Force Veteran and Congressman Ted Lieu; Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) President and CEO Douglas Guthrie; Step Up on Second Board Chair Dr. Fernando Torres-Gil and Shangri-La Construction CEO and Owner Andy Meyers.
“The work that has been done here on the VA campus marks the perfect example of what it takes to ensure that every Veteran in need has a place to live with the supportive services that he or she needs,” Park said.
Other housing projects under construction on the West LA VA campus are Buildings 401, 402, and 404 which will provide a total of 375 Veteran units. Construction is already underway on these buildings and a groundbreaking event for those projects is anticipated to be held in the summer of 2023.
Infrastructure support is a key component of the new development, and VA invested over $70 million in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022 for infrastructure upgrades including electrical, water and telecommunication systems and land preparation. VA has plans to invest roughly $70 million more in 2023 to support the construction.
The PACT Act authorized VA to enter into and fund leases for the development of the supportive housing projects, with more than $350 million envisioned for use in supporting the housing development at West LA through 2035.
“It’s so important that everyone understands your work, your resourcefulness and innovative approaches, your continued successes in L.A. infuse critical momentum, not just here, but in every corner of this country,” Secretary McDonough said, citing the 1,301 formerly homeless Veterans housed in L.A. last year, the most of any city in the United States.
“We have to depend on one another, keep our arms around one another, wrap our arms around our Veterans, follow their example of lifting up each other so we can end this challenge.”