Affordable Housing: A Case Study in El Monte

We wanted to identify a case study for our readers that provides a very specific example how to effectively make an impact on the affordable housing shortage in their community. The El Monte Veterans Village, which opened in March of 2014, provides 40 units built at a cost of $12 million.

By: Elissa J. Granger

el-monte-veterans-housing-large-01The El Monte Veterans Village that has been described as a landmark achievement between Mercy Housing and New Directions.

Mercy Housing’s mission, according to its website is: “To create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable, program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities.”

New Directions for Veterans (NDVets) was founded by two formerly homeless Vietnam veterans and a local advocate for homeless persons and has provided comprehensive services to thousands of veterans in Los Angeles County since 1992.

IMG_8835-950x633This project has changed and enriched the lives of veterans by developing the first veterans housing in the El Monte area. There is considerable evidence this project provides a model for other affordable housing efforts.

Our sincere thanks to Mercy Housing’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Ed Holder who provided a step-by-step guide to the project.

Step 1: Strong City Backing: A supportive City Council and city staff was critical for success.

Step 2: Supportive Community & Support of Veterans Group: We made sure the local community was on board. They should be a part of the process from the beginning to ensure buy-in and support. Veterans groups were invited to provide specific input in planning process.

Step 3: County Funding: HUD’s L.A. County Housing Allocation Committee has funds available to assist in the development of housing. Federal and state financing sources include: low income housing tax credits and bank loans. In some cities, local programs provide the developers with market rate projects or local housing trust funds or bonds.

Step 4: Developing the Concept: The project must clearly identify the target communities specific needs – in this case it was veterans. What is their income level? What special services need to be offered?

Step 5: Securing Financing: This project required putting together a complex funding package combining federal, state, and local government resources as well as private funding.

IMG_8800-950x633Step 6: Locating the Proper Location: Suitable sites may be identified (and sometimes owned) by the local government. This makes the process much easier. Real estate professionals can indentify potential sites. Sometimes generous owners will donate property for your project.

Step 7: Local Government Review: Local government regulations require exhaustive reviews. Make sure the project meets the all local and regional government requirements and codes.

Step 8: Public Review: Engagement with community leaders, local groups and concerned individuals is vital. Inviting their participation will lead to revisions, often made when valid concerns are identified. Issues such as traffic and noise will generate their concerns and must be addressed.

el-monte-veterans-housing-large-05Step 9: Approval: Once your proposal is approved and financing is secured the developer proceeds with construction or rehabilitation of the property development.

What was a major contributing factor that allowed Mercy Housing to get this project off the ground?
“Having a very strong and committed city behind us was essential,” said Holder. “The City of El Monte was a fantastic partner. The El Monte City Council and staff knew and understood that every night that this [El Monte Veterans Village] was not built it meant that a homeless Veterans would sleeping on the streets.”

Elissa J. Granger is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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