Trump and Clinton plans for veterans leave out affordable housing

March 3, 2016

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have both released plans to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help veterans and their families. Both plans call for better access to health care, especially for treating posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Our recent study on veterans at risk of homelessness highlights the importance of these issues. But both plans are vague in details and, more important, both plans leave out a big issue that especially affects recent veterans: affordable housing and homelessness prevention.

As I have written before, almost 1.5 million veteran households spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent. That’s too much of their monthly budget, leaving them at serious risk for eviction and homelessness.

Compared with veterans from earlier conflicts and wars, the problem is worse for veterans who served after September 11, 2001. And the problem is pervasive: 87 percent of extremely low-income veterans in this cohort pay too much for rent. It’s worth noting that about 70 percent of veterans who served in earlier conflicts are also severely rent burdened.

Many veterans are rent burdened
Note: "Extremely low income" is 0-30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI); very low income: 31-50 percent of AMI; low income: 51-80 percent of AMI. So, for example, in Maricopa County, Arizona, AMI is $64,000.Extremely low-income at 30 percent of AMI would be $19,200 per year.

The Obama administration has made significant progress in reducing homelessness among veterans. Both candidates should be thinking about how to finish the job of ending veteran homelessness, and how to prevent veterans from becoming homeless in the future. To do so, they need plans that increase veterans’ access to affordable housing.

A promising solution is to create a housing voucher program for veterans that links housing subsidies with employment assistance. Such a program could go a long way in making sure we are honoring our obligation to those who served our country.

 

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