In 2006, Community Housing Development Corporation
(CHDC), a Minneapolis nonprofit developer and owner of 44 affordable-housing properties, opened a project for homeless veterans. Next to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center in South Minneapolis, CHDC and partners renovated four former officers’ quarters and constructed two new buildings to create 140 affordable units for homeless vets.
“That project was incredibly successful,” says Elizabeth Flannery, CEO, CHDC. “Since it opened, we’ve regularly had a waiting list of more than 300 people.”
Six years ago, CHDC staff began talking about expanding the 2006 building. “In addition to the waiting list, which needed to be addressed with more affordable housing, we learned that the veterans community is huge and has a range of needs,” Flannery says. “We also learned we need more support services than we originally projected.”
“Moreover, when vets finally have housing they can afford, they have the opportunity to think about what’s next, whether that’s counseling, employment, getting their VA entitlements in order or getting treatment,” she adds. In other words, “Housing is critical. Housing is a foundation to everything.”
Last week, CHDC and partners broke ground on Veterans East. Located adjacent to the 2006 project, near the Blue Line light-rail station, Veterans East will include 100 affordable units, and will provide on-site support services for health care, case management, life skills, financial management, VA benefits, and education and employment resources.
UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, is the project’s largest private investor; the organization is providing $5.2 million in equity using low-income housing tax credits approved by the State of Minnesota. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, which finances affordable housing, is providing $7.7 million in deferred loan funds. Additional funding comes from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Hennepin County, affiliates of CHDC, and $290,000 in energy and sales tax rebates.
Eligible veterans—those who have experienced chronic homelessness—will pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. When completed in Summer 2017, Veterans East will provide permanent supportive housing for veterans struggling with homelessness.
The five-story, energy-efficient building, designed by LHB Architects, will also have a community room with a fireplace, a kitchenette and laundry facilities. In addition to its transit-friendly location near the VA Hospital, Veterans East will be adjacent to Minnehaha Park, and near Lake Nokomis and other area amenities.
Since January 2015, Minnesota has kept a registry of homeless veterans to help identify opportunities for housing and other services. So far, 600 vets have been housed, but many more remain homeless. “Once vets get housing they can get work,” Flannery says.