A $13 million development project hopes to end homelessness for veterans in Lexington.
The number of homeless veterans in Lexington dropped from 162 in 2017 to 92 in 2018, according to an annual homeless count, but officials hope an innovative affordable housing project will help bring that number close to zero by 2020.
The Victory Point Apartments and Townhomes project will add 50 new affordable housing units on the grounds of the Franklin R. Sousley Veterans Affairs campus on Leestown Road.
The project will re-use and renovate four buildings on the campus and construct six new buildings. The entrance to the new development will be from Opportunity Way.
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“We are getting close to ending veterans homeless in Lexington, but we’re not done yet,” said Emma Metcalf, the director of the Lexington VA campus at a groundbreaking ceremony held Tuesday.
The units will hopefully be completed in the next 12 to 14 months, said Holly Wiedemann, president of AU Associates, the development agent for the project.
“This is the first one in Kentucky and the first one in the region,” Wiedemann said.
The VA has been charged with re-adapting unused or under-utilized buildings and land on its campuses across the country, said De Carol Smith, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
This is the first project in Kentucky to add affordable housing to an existing campus, Smith said.
The four current buildings will be gutted and renovated to create 26 apartments. The six new buildings will have 24 townhouse apartments for a total of 38,330 square feet of living space. The buildings slated for renovation were at one time used for housing for VA staff, among other uses.
The development will be paid for through a combination of tax credits, money from Lexington’s affordable housing program, federal grants and federal Community Development Block grants. Agencies involved in funding the project include Central Bank, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, the Kentucky Heritage Council and Fahe, a Berea-based nonprofit.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, said the project is unique because veterans can live and get services in the same place, he said.
“This will give veterans convenient access to medical care right next door in a safe and supportive environment,” Barr said.
Lexington’s affordable housing fund has leveraged $12 million in city money to get $120 million in private investment to either retain or create 1,431 housing units over the past four years, said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
“The addition of these units will make this historic campus a welcoming place for those who have served their country,” Gray said.
Just a few miles up the road, AU Associates is also building another affordable housing project — a 71-unit affordable housing development for seniors. Affordable housing for seniors is one of the biggest needs in Lexington, housing officials have said.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November for the two-story development for seniors on Antique Drive, directly behind the Meadowthorpe Antique Mall on Leestown Road.
Those units will likely open in the next 12 months, Wiedemann said.