CITY HALL — Local military veterans will soon have access to a pilot program that would combine rental assistance with job training and other help as part of a slew of proposals approved by the City Council this week.
The City Council and the Housing Authority, absent of Mayor Ara Najarian, voted to create the pilot program while city officials vet a controversial proposal to reopen the long waiting list for Section 8 rental assistance, a federally sponsored program that uses vouchers to subsidize rent payments, to give military veterans higher priority.
When the possibility of reopening the waiting list exclusively for veterans was broached in July at a Housing Authority meeting, Najarian said he staunchly opposed the idea.
At the time, other members of the council expressed support for the proposal, which will return to the dais for consideration in coming months.
In the meantime, the programs approved Tuesday will be implemented immediately, officials said.
"There is a huge need out there," said Councilwoman Laura Friedman. "I'm glad to see that we are taking the step to try to offer whatever we can to these individuals who have sacrificed so much for us."
The Housing Authority on Tuesday also approved enhancing current affordable-housing programs — such as low-interest loans for housing rehabilitation and first-time homebuyers — to give preference or increased benefits to qualifying veterans.
Councilman Frank Quintero, who as chairman of the Housing Authority championed the enhancements, said the assistance was especially important for veterans returning from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"These are individual men and women who, quite frankly, didn't think this would happen to them — the continual deployments, the job losses, the children that are involved," he said.