Housing Our Heroes...And Helping Our Economy
The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program is the only permanent housing program that is focused solely on helping homeless veterans find appropriate housing. The Obama Administration, as well as activists, has made it a priority to end homelessness among veterans. Veterans make up 1 percent of the American population, but they are ten percent of the homeless population. The VASH program is useful as it provides vouchers for homeless veterans once the veterans are screened and understand what the program means for them.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the agency that dispenses these vouchers. There are threshold factors for eligibility, such as the applicant should not have pending litigation that might make paying rent a major problem. According to HUD, approximately 10,000 VASH vouchers have been handed out in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
There is, however, a larger population of concern amongst veterans than those who are homeless. The “at-risk” veteran, returning from Afghanistan or Iraq, returns home to an unstable economy, and is “at-risk” of falling into poverty. Some veterans may re-enlist and some may not, but they all face the same economy here in the United States. According the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there have been 2,176,410 veterans that have served since September 11th, 2001. That is a very interesting number when you consider that there are approximately 2,136,868 homes that are currently in foreclosure in the United States.
Foreclosed homes are not as easy to buy as is often perceived…or advertised. Any deal that is too good to be true is absorbed by real estate companies or lawyers before regular investors can get to them. Perhaps there is a way to help present day veterans get re-established while addressing some of the enormous real estate inventory that is crippling the housing market. Without tinkering with interest rate incentives and other enticements (such as waiving closing fees), veterans would be best served by getting first crack at depressed real estate.
The average foreclosure in the United States would cost approximately $171,971, as reported by Bloomberg (figures are $175,701 if you reference the trend center at realtytrac.com). Those real estate foreclosure figures could be lower if the best bargains were not swallowed up early by real estate professionals. Homes under $200,000 are still a good deal for young soldiers looking to establish themselves in civilian life.
Cities with high inventories of foreclosed property are desperate to find owners for these homes. Just this week, the Mayor of Detroit began offering police officers a similar incentive. What makes offering foreclosures to veterans even more sensible is that of the 20 cities with the highest foreclosure rates, most of them are in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. These are all locations where many veterans already live after serving out their contracts.
The idea is worth exploring as a means to avoiding that dreaded 10 percent mark of homeless veterans. It might spur neighborhood revitalization and home improvements. It might make neighborhoods safer. What it certainly would do is show our young veterans that they are welcome back into a society that still needs them.