Sep 19 2016
Bill facilitates 1,200 new units of homeless housing
Washington—The Senate tonight unanimously approved legislation to restore the Department of Veterans Affairs’ leasing authority at the West Los Angeles Campus, the Veterans Care Agreement and West Los Angeles Leasing Act, sending it to the president’s desk. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (Both D-Calif.) introduced the bill in the Senate and Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced it in the House of Representatives.
Leasing authority will allow the department to partner with nonprofits to build housing for homeless veterans and expand veterans’ services more quickly and efficiently than it otherwise would be able to.
Feinstein released the following statement:
“Today is an important milestone in our 10-year effort to transform the West LA VA into a nationwide leader for veterans’ services.
“When I first started working on this issue in April 2007, the West LA VA was not living up to its obligation to serve veterans. Since then, we have worked through issue after issue and thanks to the leadership of Secretary Bob McDonald, we’re on the right track.
“Over the past two years, the VA has developed an ambitious Master Plan for the campus that would use public-private partnerships to add 1,200 additional units of housing for homeless veterans and a wide range of educational, health care and recreational services. The passage of this bill allows these critical projects to move forward.
“I’d like to thank my partners in this effort: Senator Boxer, former-Congressman Waxman and Congressman Ted Lieu. I’m also incredibly grateful to Senators Isakson, Blumenthal and Enzi, as well as Admiral Mike Mullen for helping get this done.”
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga,) chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement:
“I’m glad to see the West LA VA campus space being put to good use to provide housing for homeless veterans. I look forward to seeing this bill signed into law and seeing the project completed.”
A timeline of Senator Feinstein’s work to ensure the West LA VA fulfills its obligations to veterans is included below:
September 2016: The House and Senate approve the West Los Angeles Leasing Act, sending it to the president for his signature.
May 2016: The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee passed the Los Angeles Veterans Leasing Act, as part of a larger legislative package.
February 2016: The House Veterans Affairs Committee passed the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act.
January 2016: The West LA VA final master plan is released.
December 2015: Senator Feinstein secured $35 million for the renovation of Building 208 in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2016.
October 2015: The West LA VA draft master plan is released.
October 2015: The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act.
September 2015: Senator Feinstein secured the approval of legislation to allow the renovation of Building 205 to proceed. Before VA construction projects can begin, they must be approved by the Appropriations and Veterans Affairs Committees in the House and Senate.
August 2015: Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Ted Lieu proposed legislation, the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act, to facilitate additional housing for homeless and disadvantaged veterans by restoring the department’s long-term leasing authority. The new leasing authority would be coupled with safeguards and reporting requirements to prevent mismanagement and commercial leasing.
June 2015: Building 209 opened.
January 2015: The VA settled the lawsuit with ACLU of Southern Los Angeles. The settlement required the completion of the campus’ master plan.
December 2014: Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Waxman secured $35 million for the renovation of Building 205 in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.
September 2014: Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Waxman urged VA Secretary Robert McDonald to respond to a General Accountability Office report detailing mismanagement of land-use agreements.
August 2013: Senator Feinstein, Representative Waxman and Supervisor Yaroslavsky secured a commitment from VA Secretary Shinseki to fund and support services to help homeless veterans, including expanded housing vouchers for homeless veterans, additional medical outreach workers and a dedicated homeless center.
September 2011: The Senate unanimously approved the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act, which authorized $35.5 million to renovate Building 209.
July 2011: Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representative Waxman urged the Obama administration to not sell West LA VA property.
June 2011: The ACLU of Southern Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against the VA. The lawsuit alleged the department illegally leased land to private entities.
June 2010: Senator Feinstein, Representative Henry A. Waxman and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky secured a commitment from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to renovate Building 209 for the purpose of providing long-term supportive housing.
May 2008: In a letter, Senator Feinstein asked VA Secretary James Peake to take action on long-term supportive housing for homeless veterans. She also asked the department to report on progress on the campus’ master plan.
December 2007: The ban on commercial leases was signed into law.
September 2007: Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) proposed an amendment to remove the ban on commercial leases. The Senate rejected it by a vote of 66-25.
June 2007: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senator Feinstein’s proposal. It was included as part of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
April 2007: Following reports of mismanagement and inappropriate leases to private entities, Senator Feinstein introduced legislation to ensure the West LA VA was focused primarily on serving veterans. The bill prohibited development and expansion, including commercial leases, until the Department of Veterans Affairs provided Congress a comprehensive report on the campus’ master plan.