With a vision for a community of rehabilitated former Army housing, new multi-story, higher-density living quarters and tiny houses interspersed between the two on land near its facilities, the Veterans Transition Center will begin to move above and beyond providing transitional housing to veterans and their families by creating permanent housing for eligible veterans.
“The project is being called ‘Lightfighter Village’ as an homage to the 7th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army — the light fighters — that was primarily based at Fort Ord,” said Ethan Daniels, EAH Housing’s senior project manager in an email.
The proposed $30 million development is planned for a 2.38-acre parcel of land and would be a three-story, 71-unit housing structure enabling homeless veterans to reside in perpetuity with no transitional requirements and continue to receive case management and access to supportive services.
Of the total number of units, 64 would be studio apartments at roughly 415 square feet, and seven two-bedroom units of about 850 square feet, including one manager’s unit. The structure would include a community room, manager’s office, computer lab, a pet wash station, laundry facility, meditation room and a fitness room.
The Lightfighter Village site is located on Hayes Circle in Marina and is within a half mile of transit, employment and shopping options for the tenants as well as the main VTC headquarters. The project would seek a LEED designation and employ a photovoltaic system on the roof.
The village project is part of about 10 acres of land that includes rehabilitated former Army housing used by the VTC for its transitional housing program, and structures that will come down to make way for the higher-density buildings, as well as under-utilized land that could be home to a proposed tiny house village.
“The project is a joint effort between the Veterans Transition Center, EAH Housing, Inc., and the National Equity Fund, Inc. that started in 2014 with the goal of developing permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans,” said Daniels. “In 2007, VTC was granted three parcels on the former Fort Ord military base through Title V of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and has been operating dozens of transitional housing units since.”
The VTC’s existing housing programs include transitional housing for homeless male and female veterans and veterans with families made up of six female beds, 48 male beds, and four family units; emergency shelter housing for homeless male veterans which consists of six beds with up to 10 more coming online July 1; permanent supportive housing with 12 beds with additional beds currently in planned rehabilitation, for a mix of shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing.
Lightfighter Village will be open to all veterans who meet program guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Health and Human Services.
The guidelines include income limits for low- and extremely-low-income housing, homeless status and prioritization of need as determined by the VA. Additionally the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Veteran Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program specifies that “a minimum of 10 percent of assisted units shall be prioritized for occupancy by veterans who are eligible for VA health case and/or HUD VA supportive housing.”
The developers are applying to the programs so the VTC can accept veterans in good standing with the VA as well as those ineligible for VA coverage, but all veterans/families will need to income qualify.
The project requires a successful allocation of project-based vouchers from the Housing Authority of the County of Monterey along with funding from federal tax credits and equity partners. The project is already supported by $5.9 million in Proposition 41 funding from California and there is hope additional Proposition 41 funding will be awarded based on the positive recommendations from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.
Obtaining water rights for the 71-unit project was a critical hurdle that held up the project for nearly two years. Without the water, the city of Marina would not approve the California Environmental Quality Act review.
With assistance from the Fort Ord Reuse Authority and the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, the Secretary of the Army authorized the transfer of sufficient water rights from its local reserve to the city of Marina for the express use of entitling the project.
Marina is now in the process of finalizing the California Environmental Quality Act review and recently published the initial study – mitigated negative declaration for public comment. Upon completion of the public comment period, the project developers would work to obtain approvals from the Marina Planning Commission, the City Council and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority.
Financing for the project will be primarily through a loan from the Housing and Community Development Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program, equity raised through the sale of low-income housing tax credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, tax-exempt bonds through the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee and hopefully rental subsidies from the project based vouchers through the Housing Authority of the County of Monterey.
If all the pieces come together as planned, construction could start in the fall of 2019 and take about 18 months to complete.
“Lightfighter Village will provide permanent, ocean-view forever homes to male and female veterans and veterans with families,” said J. Alan Fagan, Mattox Group CEO and a consultant to the VTC.