Officials broke ground Saturday on a new residence hall that will provide 196 units of affordable housing near Los Angeles International Airport for low-income veterans.
With airplanes thundering overhead at close range — sometimes as often as one minute apart — U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, Victoria Reggie Kennedy (wife of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy) and veterans from each branch of the Armed Services celebrated the $34.9-million project, which is expected to open in the fall of 2011.
Funding for the project known as Westside Residence Hall II was raised from a variety of sources, including nearly $20 million from the Economic Recovery Act, $7.5 million from a state housing and development infrastructure fund and $7.4 million from the city of Inglewood's redevelopment agency.
The first Westside Residence Hall, which will be joined with the new complex, opened in 1993 on the adjacent lot, which had formerly been the site of a 500-unit dormitory for Northrup University.
Tim Cantwell, who built the original Westside Residence Hall and owns the building, said the facility has housed 8,000 veterans since then. Still, he said, "there is a dearth of affordable options for veterans to exit into when they come out of the service or when they come out of other programs."
U.S. Vets, a nonprofit group, provides services at the site, which has a mental health clinic and career center.
"Affordable housing for heroes is an objective that everyone supports," U.S. Vets President Dwight Radcliff said during the program. "Veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 18 deaths per day, according to VA reports, and we must realize that the VA alone can't help and can't be the sole answer to these veterans' needs."
"This is serious work," Radcliff added.
Officials said rents in the units range from $375 to $650, including meals. The new building will add 148 studio apartments and 48 units with shared kitchen facilities to the complex.
Boxer, who is holding several fundraisers for her reelection campaign this weekend with Kennedy, praised the project as an example of what of the Economic Recovery Act has done.
"When we all work together instead of fighting ... we can get a lot done," the California Democrat said.
Boxer's Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, has repeatedly said that the stimulus program has failed, citing California's 12.3% unemployment rate.