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Wed, Apr

Is Price Right on Vets Prop 41?

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RUSS REPORT-District 9 Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. (photo) introduced a resolution April 23 urging the Los Angeles City Council to support the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act of 2014 (Prop 41) authored by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. 

Prop 41 was signed by the Governor in October 2013 and is slated for the June 3, 2014 statewide primary election ballot. The Measure would divert $600 million of $900 million dollars from The Veterans Bond Act of 2008 (Proposition 12) passed by voters to enable veterans to obtain low-interest rate loans for the purchase of conventional homes, manufactured homes, and mobile homes without cost to taxpayers. 

Prop 41 would ostensibly fund the construction of affordable multifamily housing for low-income veterans with at least one-half of the funds going to construct housing for extremely low-income veterans. Only ½ of the funding for extremely low-income veterans would be used to build supportive housing, according to The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). 

Unlike Prop 12, where veterans holding loans paid for the cost of the program, taxpayers will bear the costs for Prop 41. The projected cost to taxpayers will be $750 Million over 10 years. The bill allocates $30 Million just to cover costs of administration of this program.  

The Coalition for Veterans Housing, leading the campaign in support of the Prop 41 says if voters pass the initiative, it will “expand housing options for veterans, including housing for homeless veterans, those at risk for homelessness, those struggling with physical injuries and unemployment and/or in need services such as mental health counseling, substance use treatment or job training.” 

Priority funding for projects to house homeless veterans is a great “selling point” for voters but only a small portion of that money will actually be used to house them. 

Not enough emphasis, in Prop 41, is placed on the needs of some 19,000 homeless veterans throughout California. Indeed, the supply of homeless housing for veterans is far too low to meet those needs and the DVA continues to be painfully slow in accommodating them. Backlogs for veterans claims still remains unacceptably high, leaving veterans without necessary benefits to pay for such things – like rent. 

Homeless veterans suffer from a wide array of physical and mental disabilities coupled with substance abuse problems, poor employment histories and far weaker social support systems. 

Transportation and maneuvering the paperwork for services are often major barriers for them in seeking help. 

The key to getting the homeless off the streets is easy compared to the challenges of keeping them off the streets. 

Yesonprop41forvets.org says, “All funding must provide housing for veterans and their families only. The housing and facilities funded by Proposition 41 will be closely monitored by the state and federal veteran affairs agencies and by an oversight group composed largely of veteran organization representatives.” 

The diverted funds will be used to give state and local governments the ability to authorize financial assistance, such as low interest loans, and perhaps, grants to entice private developers and nonprofit organizations to build and provide services. Prop 41 will not pay for actual construction.  In the event voters pass Prop 41, actual construction may not begin for years. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) will “head” a newly established committee named “Housing for Veterans Finance Committee” which should raise “red flags” in light of tremendous negative publicity surrounding the DVA’s ability to actually “help” veterans. 

That the “departments may review, adopt, amend, and repeal guidelines or terms, or both, to implement this article” and will, for the most part, provide oversight to itself, creates even greater concern of potential misfeasance and malfeasance. 

Perez could not be reached for comment. Connie Llanos, Councilman Price’s spokesperson, did not return a promised call, so questions relative to Prop 41 remain unanswered. 

Before the Los Angeles City Council passes a resolution of support for Prop 41, it should question the vagueness and ambiguity of the bill to be put on the ballot for voter approval. 

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