Friday, June 22, 2012

NHC Policy Symposium explores veterans' housing issues

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

NHC’s annual Policy Symposium brought together more than 200 representatives from the housing and veterans affairs communities to examine the challenges facing veterans and returning servicemembers. The key theme of the day was commonality—the housing challenges of veterans are quite similar to the housing challenges facing all in America: foreclosures, burdensome housing costs, underwater mortgages, and homelessness.

Speakers highlighted some of the particular challenges facing veterans:
  • Outreach to veterans who may not self-identify as being in need or younger veterans who may connect with traditional veterans' service networks 
  • The difficulty of obtaining reliable data to identify need and measure outcomes 
  • Geographic concentration in states with military bases or training facilities 
  • Coalescing local, state and federal resources with community support for veterans' housing 
  • Simply a large influx of in a short period of time 
The solutions covered by panelists included both new and familiar ground for housing stakeholders:
  • Greater availability of affordable rental housing particularly in places with stronger employment and housing demand 
  • Supportive services connected to housing for a broad range of need 
  • Housing counseling for home purchases, to sustain homeownership and to prevent foreclosures 
  • Improved mortgage servicing, including strategies to reduce principal on underwater troubled loans, building on the groundwork laid by the National Mortgage Settlement
  • Ongoing support for the HUD-VASH program, which Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould from VA called the “nuclear weapon in the arsenal against veteran homelessness” 
  • Strengthening federal support for existing housing programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, the HOME Investment Partnerships, and Section 8 that face increasing demand from veterans and non-veterans need alike
In opening remarks, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia also touted his proposal for mortgage finance reform, which focuses on the nuts and bolts of how housing finance functions so that veterans and non-veterans alike can achieve homeownership.

HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Mark Johnston spoke of the strong partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and how those efforts dovetail with HUD programs to address homelessness.

No comments: