Strategies for Leasing to Veterans During COVID-19
Prior to the pandemic, 13% of adults experiencing homelessness in the United States served in the military, with an estimated 37,000 Veterans experiencing homelessness on any given night in America. Helping individuals remain in stable housing remains one of the most effective ways to prevent people from spreading or contracting COVID-19. No individual who served their country should be without a home. VA cannot address this alone and needs landlords who are interested in housing these Veterans.
In this historic crisis, landlords have a unique opportunity to give back to those who have served. Veterans have selflessly defended our nation in times of need — and landlords can make a positive impact by protecting these individuals from the risk of homelessness. Housing Veterans doesn’t just provide shelter, but can lead to life-changing health, social, and socioeconomic outcomes for them and their families. Furthermore, housing Veterans provides a mutually beneficial relationship; landlords will benefit from responsible, often long-term, renters, support from VA, and guaranteed payments.
We urge all landlords to consider the information and strategies below and to contact their local VA to be connected with a homeless coordinator in their area. Connecting Veterans experiencing homelessness with housing is urgent, and we thank everyone for joining this critical mission.
Accepting Housing Vouchers from Veterans
There are multiple efforts through VA to assist low-income Veterans with permanent housing solutions. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program is one of them, serving as a collaborative effort among HUD, VA, and local public housing authorities. Under HUD-VASH, eligible low-income Veterans with a need for case management and supportive services receive a housing choice (sometimes referred to as Section 8) voucher from the public housing authority to provide rental assistance that promotes housing stability.
Deciding to accept housing choice vouchers is a meaningful way for landlords to provide Veterans with housing. It takes just 5 steps to participate:
- Contact a local public housing authority to learn more about the HUD-VASH program and obtain the required paperwork to be on the housing authority's landlord referral list.
- Contact VA to connect with a homeless coordinator in the area and learn about housing HUD-VASH Veterans. VA will refer Veterans approved for the voucher program to view available units.
- On receipt of the “Request for Tenancy Approval” form to the housing authority, a Housing Quality Standards inspection of the unit and building will be scheduled.
- Have the Veteran review and sign their lease, which are generally agreed upon for 12 months.
Similarly, the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program Office offers rapid housing to Veterans facing homelessness. The rental subsidy arrangement they provide to eligible Veterans is known as a Shallow Subsidy service. Grantees make a two-year commitment to a landlord and household unless their household terminates their housing or receives a permanent rental subsidy.
Benefits of Renting to Veterans
- Reliable income: With HUD-VASH vouchers and SSVF subsidies, a portion of the rent is automatically paid on time to landlords by a public housing authority or an SSVF provider. A team supports the Veteran to provide stability, educates the Veteran on his or her tenancy requirements, and helps the Veteran meet the requirements of the lease, such as paying their portion of the rent on time. In addition, accepting housing vouchers or rental subsidies does not mean accepting less money. The combination of these payments along with the Veteran’s portion matches fair market rental prices, so landlords won’t see less money coming in.
- Support from VA: Case management from VA support programs can connect landlords and Veterans with help they may need. Such a network of support creates a solid foundation for Veterans and is more likely to lead to successful and stable tenancy.
- Serve those who have served: Landlords renting to Veterans can feel proud of their decision to house those who have answered our nation's call. Such a decision can be consequential in changing a Veteran's life.
- Support community health outcomes: The pandemic reminds us that nearly all health is public, and our wellbeing is highly influenced by the health of our community. Veterans experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as developing other health conditions. By providing safe housing to Veterans and their families, landlords can help mitigate these risks, improve community health, and help our nation make progress in recovering from this national tragedy.
Ensure Property Is Up to Code
Passing inspection is an essential component of providing housing to Veterans in need. Such inspections should not provide an additional burden to the landlord, but rather mirror typical requirements.
Housing Quality Standards
- Sanitary facilities
- Food preparation and refuse disposal
- Space and security
- Thermal environment
- Illumination and electricity
- Structure and materials
- Indoor air quality
- Water supply
- Smoke detectors
Click here to learn more about housing quality standards.
- Contact a local housing authority: Many local housing authorities work closely with HUD-VASH programs and can assist in connecting landlords to both HUD-VASH and Veterans who are eager to rent. Most will have websites and contact information obtainable through a quick internet search. Find housing authorities nationwide by visiting this site.
- Reach out to a local VA Medical Center (VAMC): Each VAMC has staff who are dedicated to connecting Veterans with housing. Click here to find a local VAMC.
- Advertise HUD-VASH and voucher acceptance in property listings: If a landlord is advertising a property, they should consider highlighting that they accept HUD-VASH and housing choice vouchers. While federal law does not require a landlord to accept these, some states prohibit refusing a tenant based on voucher payments.
- Consider shared living arrangements: The majority of Veterans experiencing homelessness are single males. Many single Veterans may be interested in shared living arrangements that can help cut down costs, especially in competitive markets. Consider leasing multiple bedrooms in a single-family home to multiple Veterans.
Additional Ways to Help
- Rent to Veterans at a discounted rate: At this stage of the pandemic, the housing market is increasingly competitive, and in many areas, limited affordable options are available. If a landlord can afford to charge a lower rate for a Veteran in transition, even for a short period of time, such an act of kindness can provide a Veteran with an opportunity for otherwise unaffordable housing.
- Donate furniture: The pandemic caused many renters to move suddenly, often leaving furniture behind. Donating such furniture to a Veteran tenant in need is a great way to provide additional assistance.
- Share this information with other landlords: Please consider spreading awareness of the Veteran housing crisis and distributing this information with other landlords or realtors.