Lot OK’d for homeless veterans housing

Parking area on Vancouver VA campus one of 34 sites chosen across the nation

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Update

Previously: In June, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced that Vancouver was one of 34 sites chosen for a VA housing initiative.

What’s new: VA officials said Tuesday that a 1.35-acre parking lot in Vancouver would be used as a building site for veterans’ housing.

What’s next: After developing the scope of work, the VA will review proposals from potential partners.

A parking lot on Vancouver’s Veterans Affairs campus along Fourth Plain Boulevard has been designated as a place to build housing for homeless veterans.

The 1.35-acre parking lot, which also serves Clark County’s Center for Public Health, will be part of a VA program to expand housing for veterans in need.

Next, the agency will work up a plan for the project and then select a developer, VA officials said Tuesday in a public hearing in Vancouver.

If things follow the timeline of previous projects, the developer could break ground within a year to 18 months, said Kelli Emery, with the VA’s Office of Asset Enterprise Management.

“Ground won’t be broken until a lease is executed and financing is in place,” Emery said.

The VA won’t be the developer; it can lease the land and buildings for up to 75 years, but it retains ownership. The lease-holder must finance, develop, operate and maintain the property.

The VA’s Building Utilization Review and Repurposing Initiative had announced in June that the Vancouver campus, which is part of the Portland VA Medical Center, would be one of 34 sites across the nation chosen for the project.

The goal was to find unused buildings or unimproved land that could be converted into housing. In Vancouver, the project could include permanent or transitional — as long as 24 months — housing. In another category, supportive housing, the veterans would participate in rehabilitation programs, Emery said. Another option could include veterans with families.

The parking lot slated to become the site of veterans’ housing will be replaced elsewhere on the VA campus, officials said.

Spokane is the only other VA site in Washington, Oregon and Idaho on the BURR list.

A recent report from the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that there are almost 2,000 homeless veterans in Washington.