Unmet Housing Needs Remain Widespread Among Veterans

According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), rental assistance helped 339,000 veterans afford housing in March 2013, the most recent period for which data are available.

Rental assistance appears to have played a central role in the 17 percent reduction in veterans’ homelessness between 2009 and 2012, and it allows recipients to devote more of their limited resources to other basic needs, like food or medicine. Some 52 percent were elderly, and 21 percent were non-elderly veterans with disabilities. And some 117,000 children lived in assisted families that included a veteran.

However, according to CBPP, rental assistance reaches only a fraction of veterans in need; many veterans continue to experience homelessness or pay very high shares of their income for housing. In 2012, some 1.79 million low-income veterans lived in households that paid more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities, and 762,000 lived in households that paid more than 50 percent.

Government programs and the private sector widely regard housing as unaffordable if it costs more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Families that pay substantially more must often divert funds away from other basic needs. They also are at greater risk of having to move frequently, entering into stressful and insecure arrangements such as doubling up with friends and family, or becoming homeless.

And if Congress doesn’t increase funding in 2014 for the Housing Choice Voucher program, which has been hit hard by sequestration, assistance for 8,000 to 12,000 low-income veterans could be cut as a result.

While budget negotiations continue, however, the House recently passed the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2013, H.R. 1742. More details on this legislation can be found here.