Prop 41 Passed, Now What?

A U.S. Army soldier with the 211th Armored Cavalry Regiment participates in an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif.
A U.S. Army soldier with the 211th Armored Cavalry Regiment participates in an exercise at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. | Photo: The U.S. Army/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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Proposition 41, the Veterans Housing and Homeless Bond Act of 2014, won in a landslide on Tuesday with 65 percent of the vote. With that victory comes aid in the form of $600 million for housing homeless and low-income vets, old and new.

But how long will it take to get those funds, and when will veterans begin to receive the aid they need? Now that Prop 41 has passed, the three state agencies charged with carrying out the measure -- the California Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Housing Finance Agency -- will meet and put together the grant application process, develop the criteria for qualifying for funds, and put out opportunity notices for applications once they are ready.

The goal is to have grant process ready to go by end of this year and evaluate the applications by the start of 2015 so construction on new veteran facilities can begin by spring 2015, according to Burt McChesney, chair of the Coalition for Veterans Housing and a veteran of the Vietnam War.

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"Funds have to go to construction of facilities," McChesney said. "The funding isn't for services, but the grants will require services to be provided."

Various types of veteran housing will be built, he added, ranging from permanent supportive house for aging veterans, to housing for younger veterans with disabilities, to housing for female veterans.

At least one-half of the funds will be used to build housing for extremely low-income veterans -- those who earn less than 30 percent of the amount earned by the average family in a given county. And the state can use as much as $30 million of the funds to pay for administering the program.

"The facilities I have been involved in building over the last 30 years were barracks-style transitional housing," he said. "But you can't house women and families in those kinds of facilities."

The $600 million redirected by Prop 41 will be a contribution to each project's total cost; the money won't fully fund any project on its own. Repaying that bond will average about $50 million annually for 15 years -- that's $750 million total, and less than one-tenth of one percent of the state budget, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. Prop 41 opponents argue this type of bond disproportionately burdens the common taxpayer.

Prior to building new housing, there will be public meetings held by the state agencies to discuss where facilities should be and what their priorities should be, and to "add pressure to help the bureaucracy move more quickly."

"The infrastructure at the VA and in the community-based centers hasn't kept pace with the rapidly changing demographics of the veteran population," McChesney said. "Prop 41 will give resources for us to catch up and make facilities that meet the demands of this generation of vets, as well as future generations."

If you can't make it to any of those meetings before homeless advocates break ground on new buildings, here's a simple way to help L.A.'s homeless: a $20 backpack filled with essentials.

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