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Homeless Veteran Misconceptions - A Primer For Property Managers

Monday, September 26, 2016  
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Multiple VA programs exist to help veterans struggling with homelessness

By Barbara Ashley-Jones

What are the most common obstacles in getting landlords to rent to formerly homeless veterans?

Misconceptions about homeless veterans and HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) are the most common obstacles to getting landlords to rent to veterans exiting homelessness.

Unfortunately, many property managers are not aware that the Veterans Administration (VA) has trained professionals at every VA medical center to help veterans successfully transition to permanent housing. The HUD-VASH staff work with veterans in the community, including in their homes, to help them successfully reintegrate to the community.

HUD-VASH benefits veterans by providing them with subsidies to make permanent housing affordable. Landlords benefit because they are able to rent to tenants who are generally reliable payers and are also receiving supportive wraparound services, increasing the likelihood that they will be successful tenants.

When landlords are willing to give the HUD-VASH program a try, they find it can be incredibly rewarding as well as economically beneficial.

Has the increase in the number of HUD-VASH vouchers affected the number of landlords renting to veterans without vouchers?

There is a tightening of the rental housing market overall: lower vacancies and higher rents. There’s an affordability crisis in the rental housing market, and community agencies in some locations may be overwhelmed by a sudden influx of resources and attention. VA and HUD are working with those organizations to quickly ramp up their ability to get new resources out the door to the people who need them.

Is there a ceiling on the total rental subsidy provided to HUD-VASH vouchers recipients?

Yes, there is currently a fair market rent (FMR) in place, which is a locally determined amount that is the initial ceiling for a voucher. In areas where the rental market is tight, the public housing authority can apply to HUD for an increase in the FMR.

Are HUD-VASH vouchers distributed proportionately based on the population of homeless veterans in that area?

Every year since 2008, HUD and VA have awarded HUD-VASH vouchers based on geographic need and public housing agency (PHA) administrative performance. The allocation process for HUD-VASH vouchers is a collaborative approach that relies on three sets of data: HUD’s point-in-time data submitted by Continuums of Care (Co Cs); VA medical center data on the number of contacts with homeless veterans; and performance data from PHAs and VA medical centers. After determining which areas of the country have the highest number of homeless veterans, the VA Central Office identifies VA facilities in the corresponding communities. HUD then selects PHAs near the identified VA facilities, taking into consideration the PHA’s administrative performance, and sends the PHAs invitations to apply for the vouchers.

Are there enough HUD-VASH vouchers for everyone who needs them?

As of August, 2015, there are over 7,000 veterans holding vouchers who are not yet housed, and more than 10,000 vouchers are turned over each year based on veterans graduating out of the program, voluntarily leaving, or exiting the program for other reasons. In addition, HUD has more than 10,000 more vouchers in its 2016 markup budget, so we believe we currently have enough resources to meet the demand; however, that could change in the future.

The strategy is not to provide a voucher to every homeless veteran, but rather to make available vouchers to the most vulnerable veterans who need ongoing supportive services and case management to successfully maintain their housing and reintegrate to the community.

Not every veteran who becomes homeless will need a HUD-VASH voucher to exit homelessness. In fact, many veterans who become homeless are able to exit homelessness with short-term assistance from programs such as the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) or no assistance at all.

Some veterans may be better served by a different program such as the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) and Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) programs. VA is also continually reassessing veterans to determine which programs are most appropriate to address their needs.

I encourage all REALTORS® involved in property management to be helpful and understanding to our veterans, who have put their lives on the line for this country.

Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs


Barbara Ashley-Jones, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty , is a member of the ORRA Professional Development Forum. She can be reached at barbara.ashleyjones@sothebysrealty.com.

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