We know a severe nationwide shortage of affordable housing is one of the core drivers of homelessness among veterans and civilians alike. At its very core, homelessness is caused by a fundamental mismatch between the availability of affordable housing in any community’s housing market and an individual’s ability to pay for housing. The average rental price according to HUD has increased by four percent annually over the last decade or 66 percent between 2010 and 2020. Yet the federal minimum wage has remained unadjusted since 2009. This, in partnership with weak social support networks and institutional and systemic racism, have been major drivers for the nationwide rise in housing instability that we have seen over the last several years.
More than 1.3 million veterans live in severely housing cost-burdened households, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. One key way we can prevent veterans from becoming homeless and help more veterans move on from homelessness is to ensure a sufficient supply of veteran affordable housing.
The Build Back Better Act contains robust investments of $90 billion for housing vouchers, and $80 billion for public housing, and $35 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF); because these programs are best suited to serve the lowest income and most marginalized households with the greatest needs. There is an additional investment of $18 billion that would be allocated to VA programs, $455 million of which is set aside for VA’s EUL program for the fiscal year 2022 and a program extension through 2026.
As Congress negotiates a final deal for this legislation, support for these three programs must remain a cornerstone of the bill, as support for an equitable recovery is essential if we are to truly build back better. Not only would these provisions address the housing needs of some of the lowest-income veterans and Americans alike, but they would also create jobs in the construction industry and would help support small landlords, many of whom struggled to remain financially viable during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As written, the expansion in rental assistance alone could provide housing vouchers for approximately one million American households, including approximately 246,000 low- income veteran households. The investments in the National Housing Trust Fund could build and preserve 330,000 units of affordable housing across the country. And investments for public housing could make critical repairs for public housing units that serve aging and disabled Americans.
We must do right by our fellow Americans by letting our Members of Congress know that funding for safe, affordable housing, particularly for housing vouchers, public housing, and the National Housing Trust Fund must remain a cornerstone of any legislation intended to help our country build back better. You can find contact information for your Congressional Representative or Senator online, at www.congress.gov. Members of Congress value feed- back and input from their constituents, so we urge readers to contact their Member of Congress to signal their support.
Visit www.nchv.org to learn about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.