Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein today applauded unanimous Senate passage of the West Los Angeles VA Campus Improvement Act. Senator Feinstein introduced the Senate version of the bill in January and has long championed the West LA VA campus as a key resource to reduce veteran homelessness in Los Angeles.
The bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to contribute land-use revenues generated at the West LA VA campus to the development of supportive housing and services for homeless veterans. Currently, the VA can only use lease proceeds for campus beautification.
The bill would also allow the VA to enter into longer-term leases on campus to help facilitate housing construction and reduce financing costs.
Because the Senate amended the House bill introduced by Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) to include annual assessments of the expenditure of funds and the direct benefits those expenditures provide to veterans, the bill must now return to the House for a final vote before it can be signed into law.
“There are approximately 4,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County. That’s more than any other region in the nation, and in fact makes up about 10 percent of all homeless vets in our country. Simply put, we have to do more for these men and women who sacrificed so much for our country,” said Senator Feinstein.
“Building more units to house veterans experiencing homelessness and providing the wraparound services they need to get back on their feet is essential to getting this crisis under control. I’m proud to have worked with Congressman Lieu and many others over the years to make sure the West LA VA campus supports as many veterans as possible. This bill is another step toward that goal.”
Key provisions in the bill:
- Authorizes the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use funds collected from leases and other use-agreements on the West LA VA campus for the development of supportive housing and services on campus.
- Increases the time period for enhanced use leases on the campus from 75 to 99 years. Increasing the length of leases will help streamline the construction of 1,200 units of supportive housing on campus while reducing long-term costs.
Support for the bill
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti: “With Memorial Day around the corner, we are reminded of our ongoing commitment, in Los Angeles and across the country, to never leave any veteran behind. Senator Feinstein’s tireless work on the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Affairs Campus Improvement Act means we can get closer to making that promise a reality – delivering hope and a home to nearly 4,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in L.A. County and bringing much-needed relief to our nation’s heroes. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl: “We have an absolute obligation to meet the needs of veterans who have served and sacrificed so much for this country. The West LA VA Campus Improvement Act will help us to meet this important obligation by ensuring that VA lease revenue is directed to housing and services for our LA vets. Over the last 10 years, we have made great progress in housing veterans who are experiencing homelessness, but much more remains to be done, and the passage of this legislation will help us with the crucial work of continuing to reduce the number of vets who are homeless.”
Steve Peck, CEO of U.S.VETS, and a member of the team that will be constructing more than 1,450 housing units for homeless veterans on the West LA VA campus: “I want to thank Senator Feinstein for her commitment to Los Angeles veterans and her determination to get this legislation through the Senate so quickly. The Senate action today will help put a roof over the heads of veterans in need and promote their housing stability, long term health and recovery.”
Anthony Allman, Army veteran and executive director at Vets Advocacy, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit created to fulfill the promise of a veterans community at VA West Los Angeles: “This is a win for homeless veterans. The Improvement Act reinforces the clear intent of the West LA Leasing Act of 2016 and permits investing campus revenues in long overdue infrastructure projects, housing construction and services on campus. Senator Feinstein’s ongoing commitment to making sure VA is resourced to accomplish this mission deserves our highest praise.”
In 2015, Feinstein, then-Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced the Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act to restore the Department of Veterans Affairs’ leasing authority at the West Los Angeles Campus.
Leasing authority allowed the department to partner with nonprofits to build housing for homeless veterans and expand veterans’ services. The Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act was signed into law in 2016 and facilitated 1,200 new units of homeless housing.
The West Los Angeles VA Campus Improvement Act that passed today amends the original act to clarify that leasing proceeds may be used for the construction of additional housing.