Study: Post-9/11 Veterans Struggling with Housing Affordability
A recent study from Apartment List, “The Housing Affordability Struggle of 21st Century Veterans,” found that post-9/11 veterans are more likely to struggle with housing affordability than veterans of previous generations. According to the study, post-9/11 veterans have become the first and only generation of veterans to struggle with housing affordability compared to civilians of like ages and demographics.
While veterans overall have higher homeownership rates and lower housing cost burdens compared to non-veterans, younger veterans are facing tougher challenges in the market. They are 5 percent more likely than non-veterans of their own age, race, and gender to be housing cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on their housing. Older veterans of previous generations, on the other hand, are less likely to have housing cost burdens than their civilian counterparts.
The study’s authors looked at three explanations. First, post-9/11 veterans may struggle with affordability simply because they earn lower incomes than non-veterans but vie for the same housing. They found that this is not the case. Twenty-first century veterans are not disproportionately struggling in the labor market. Controlling for age, race, and gender, the study found that post-9/11 veteran households actually earn 9 percent more non-veterans.
Second, the new generation of veterans may be supporting relatively larger households. The authors’ analysis also found that this was not the case. Post-9/11 veterans support the same number of people in their household, on average, as similar non-veterans.
Finally, the study’s authors looked at whether 21st century veterans struggle with affordability because they choose to live in relatively more expensive places. Younger veterans, for example, are less likely than older cohorts to live in rural areas. They tested this hypothesis and found that this was not the explanation. They found that employed veterans of all generations have comparable commute times to non-veterans. And even controlling for location choice, post-9/11 veterans are more cost burdened than peer civilians today.
The authors hypothesize that 21st century veterans struggle with housing affordability due to unique challenges that lagging policy has failed to address. Many post-9/11 veterans returned home during either the build up to or recovery from the 2008 housing market crash. This coincidence was historically bad timing. In the buildup to the crisis, low down payment mortgage loans flowed freely to the general population, so perhaps the advantage of VA loans wasn’t as significant during this period. And in the aftermath, veterans may have been disproportionately affected by tight credit and market volatility at a time when they would’ve been settling down. In addition, the rise of the for-profit college sector and opioid crisis may have targeted young veterans in the past 10 years. The study’s authors called for more research on this issue.