Irvine boosts affordable housing priority level for veterans

U.S. military veterans will now have the designation as a subset of special needs applicants when it comes to affordable housing in the city of Irvine.

The distinction elevates the priority of service veterans in Irvine’s affordable housing plan as part of a six-point policy amendment recommended by the Ad Hoc Veterans Affordable Housing committee established last year. In perhaps the most united front seen in Irvine in several years, the City Council unanimously approved all the recommendations without discussion the night before Veterans Day.

“This shows our community the city of Irvine truly honors our veterans for their patriotism and commitment to serve our great country,” noted Councilwoman Christina Shea, who served as chair of the ad hoc committee.

Other members on the seven-person panel were Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway, city planning commission chair Anthony Kuo, and four members of the community representing veteran affairs; Ronnie Guyer, William Woolett, Jr., Bobbie McDonald and Patricia Whitaker, who operates Innovative Housing Opportunities, a nonprofit affordable housing organization in Irvine.

The agreed upon recommendations amend the city of Irvine Housing Strategy and Implementation Plan adopted in 2006. Other key changes include that at least 10% of housing is made affordable across all income levels throughout the entire city.

Key element changes in policy include the designation that all U.S. veterans above dishonorable discharges are eligible for the housing consideration and that all areas within the Irvine city limits must include the distinction.

Guyer, a Vietnam combat veteran raised in Orange County, illustrated the issue as he addressed the council.

“Veterans have special needs because we’ve been out there, seeing what the world is really like,” he said during public comments. “I grew up next to Disneyland in the 1950s thinking I was going to grow up to be a good Mouseketeer in the Mickey Mouse Club, and ended up in the valley of death instead.”

Guyer said he’s skipping the scheduled 50-year anniversary commemoration of the first major hostilities in South Vietnam, in which he fought, this weekend in Washington, in order to advocate for veterans who still suffer on the streets of America.

Eighty-five-year old U.S. Army veteran James Kohler served during the Korean War. The retired tax service professional now processes returns only for homeless veterans. He illustrated his plea to help homeless veterans with a photo of a young veteran sleeping on a sidewalk against a wrought-iron fence on the streets of Orange County.

The recommendations of the committee are enacted immediately. With the unanimous approval, the motion also included the dissolution of the Irvine Ad Hoc Veterans Affordable Housing Committee.