Veterans Campus planned in Columbia

COLUMBIA (AP) — The Columbia Housing Authority, Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital and Welcome Home Inc. are discussing building a 4.2-acre campus in northeast Columbia to provide housing and other services to veterans.

The campus would offer 29 temporary beds for veterans seeking services from Welcome Home and 25 one-bedroom apartments for veterans who receive housing vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, or VASH, program.

“We’ll be aiming to provide a seamless system to get veterans off the street,” said Phil Steinhaus, housing authority CEO.

Steinhaus said the housing authority, which would own and manage the campus, has a purchase contract for property that currently is the site of a motel.

Welcome Home currently offers only nine temporary beds for male veterans at its “tiny” facility, said Aneisa Sherrill-Mattox, executive director of the organization. Quarters for female veterans would be made available at the proposed campus.

The organizations are planning to fund the project with loans, grants, tax credits and private donations.

Ken Nuernberger, a partner in the St. Louis-based ND Consulting Group, which the housing authority hired to help develop affordable housing in the city, said the organizations hope to raise $1.5 million in private donations and pay for the transitional beds and support services center, estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $3 million, with grant funding from the Veterans Administration, Community Development Block Grants and loans from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.

Federal home loans would be used to provide $3 million for the building that will house those with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers.

The crucial piece to the financing is $1.8 million the entities propose to generate with 4 percent low-income housing tax credits, which are awarded by the Missouri Housing Development Commission and sold to private investors.

“That is a substantial amount of money to be raised by the credits,” said Nuernberger, who added the apartments likely won’t be built without proceeds from the tax credits.

The housing commission has turned down two previous attempts by the housing authority to obtain low-income housing tax credits for other projects, but Steinhaus said he is confident the commission will approve the latest proposal because helping homeless veterans is a “high priority” for federal agencies.

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