Utah apartments for homeless veterans to finally open
Homeless veterans will begin moving into the new Valor House apartments on Monday if final agreements between Veterans Affairs and the Salt Lake City Housing Authority are inked as expected this week.
The $4.5 million Valor House, an innovative joint project that is being built to energy-efficient standards, has been under construction southwest of the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center since December 2011.
The building, comprising 72 apartments and 12 community kitchens, has been essentially finished for several weeks except for one thing: It lacks meters for water, electricity and the chilled water used in the cooling system.
That was a sticking point for VA officials in Washington, who didn't want to allow the Housing Authority to open Valor House until that was resolved, said Al Hernandez, director of homeless programs for the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System.
A written agreement will spell out that the Housing Authority is to pay the VA for the utilities based on estimated usage until the meters are installed, he said.
Bill Nighswonger, executive director of the housing authority, said he received word from the VA in Washington by email Wednesday morning that the final paperwork is being drawn up. "They are hoping to allow us to open our doors on Monday, April 1st," he said by email.
Nighswonger did not explain, in an email answering questions, why the Housing Authority's contractor did not install meters.
"There were no mistakes by anyone in obtaining the meters. They will be installed as soon as they arrive," he said.
Michael Lemmert, the health care system's chief engineer, said the meters will have transmitters so the VA can remotely read utility usage. Lemmert, whose office has been overseeing construction, said the Housing Authority and its contractor apparently had trouble finding meters that met the VA specifications at a price they could accept.
The building was dedicated Nov. 7, although Nighswonger said that event was merely ceremonial as several more months of construction remained.
"We are well within the timeframe of what construction time for completing a project of this nature usually takes us to complete," Nighswonger said.
The building is built to Silver LEED standards for energy efficiency.
Valor House will be owned and operated by the housing authority, which will receive reimbursement for housing homeless veterans. The VA chipped in $2 million of the cost and is providing a 75-year land lease for $1 per year.
Hospital spokeswoman Jill Atwood said the VA would have preferred it if Valor House had opened a month ago, but said there were no significant delays in the project.
"This is a huge project and two major organizations working together â¦ to accomplish something very big and very good," she said.