Veteran Housing Help: Grants, Loans And Assistance Programs
Kevin Graham8-minute read
June 29, 2021
Veterans who serve and protect our freedom deserve all the thanks and resources we can give them. It’s for this reason that veteran housing is such an important topic. Every veteran should have the ability to find a safe living arrangement that meets their needs.
Housing is a topic near and dear to our hearts at Rocket Mortgage®, so we wanted to do our part to help end veteran homelessness in the U.S. To that end, we began the A Home for Every Vet initiative in partnership with the Built for Zero program started by our friends at Community Solutions.
Essentially, Community Solutions partners with local leaders in a community to bring about the communication, resources and coordination necessary to end homelessness within a community. To date, 12 of the areas the organization has worked with have eliminated veteran homelessness.
While this is a great cause, the issue is bigger than any single partnership can solve. Thankfully, there are many resources and programs available. The purpose of this article is to help illuminate not only options for veterans who might find themselves unhoused at this time, but also to help disabled veterans find resources to improve their quality of life within their home. Finally, we’ll go over getting your own house with a VA loan.
Veteran Housing Assistance For The Unhoused
For those working on the problem of how to end homelessness, the solution is pretty obvious. There needs to be affordable, safe housing for all who need it. There are resources needed to make that happen, but that’s the goal.
Many people who become unhoused don’t get that way as a result of their own conscious choices. For veterans returning from the theater of war, it’s an adjustment to return to normal life. According to 2015 research from the VA, veterans share many risk factors for homelessness with the general population including substance abuse and other forms of mental illness as well as low incomes. Posttraumatic stress disorder can also cause trouble for combat veterans re-acclimating to civilian life.
To give you some idea of the scope of the problem, there were more than 580,000 unhoused individuals in the U.S. last year according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report. Among those, 37,252 were veterans. This data is collected using point-in-time surveys in communities.
Here are some resources available to veterans.
HUD VA Supportive Housing
This program combines the housing choice vouchers provided by HUD (more on these in a minute) with clinical services provided by local VA medical centers, community-based outreach clinics and other VA designees or contractors. In this way, veterans can receive the housing they need for stability along with their medical treatments.
HUD VA supportive housing is intended for veterans with severe physical or mental health problems or substance use disorders most in need of community support. Because the housing is operated through HUD, you may be able to request a reasonable accommodation to live with your service animal as well.
Supportive Services For Veteran Families (SSVF)
The Supportive Services for Veteran Families program helps very low-income families who are either already unhoused already at risk of homelessness with services like rapid rehousing as well as other categories to improve their stability such as healthcare, daily living and transportation services among others.
For more information on services and eligibility requirements, check out the program page.
Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH)
With locations in Washington, DC, and Gulfport, Mississippi, the Armed Forces retirement home is for senior veterans and their spouses. Among the eligibility criteria, you must have served 20 years or more in the service as an enlisted member, warrant officer or limited duty officer. Service time requirements may be waived if you have a VA disability rating of 50% or more.
Among many services, the site offers assisted living, memory support and long-term care. There’s also on-site medical, dental and vision care along with physical and occupational therapy. You’ll have in-room cable, internet and a full-service library. There’s a movie theater, bowling alley and hobby shops.
Those interested may request an application form.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is intended to help people with low incomes as well as those with disabilities and the elderly. To be eligible, you must make no more than 50% of the area median income where you’re looking to live. Additionally, it’s worth noting that by law 75% of the housing vouchers are required to go to people that make no more than 30% of the area median income.
The good thing about this program if you qualify is that you can live wherever you want as long as the landlord is willing to accept your subsidy. The subsidy is paid by the local public housing agency (PHA) directly to the landlord and you make up any difference. In some cases, you may be able to use your subsidy to buy a home. You apply through your local PHA.
Depending on where you’re living and the legal requirements the landlord has to follow, you may be able to request an accommodation to live with your service dog or emotional support animal.
National Call Center For Homeless Veterans Hotline
If you’re currently unhoused or at risk of homelessness, the VA maintains the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans. This is a 24/7 resource for veterans and those who know someone in need of help to speak with trained VA counselors about available homelessness programs, health care and other services.
The hotline is (877) 4AID-VET. That’s (877) 424-3838.
Housing Grants For Veterans With Disabilities
If you’re in a good financial position and looking to buy a home or refinance yours, there are some great options in terms of home loans for people with disabilities. For veterans, the VA loan is a great option, and we’ll talk about a special benefit for those receiving VA disability. However, if you’re remodeling your home for better accessibility, there are also grants available.
Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grants For Veterans With Disabilities
Using the same three letters in the acronym for two different grants is confusing, but that’s government for you. You can think of this as paying for truly customized housing that’s adapted for your needs. It’s the bigger of the two grants. Here are the details on a Specially Adapted Housing grant.
You can get a grant of up to $100,896 in the 2021 fiscal year toward the purchase, construction or remodeling of your home to meet your requirements. In order to be eligible, you need to currently own the home or own it in the future and have a qualifying service-connected disability. These include:
- The loss or loss of use of more than one limb
- The loss or loss of a lower leg along with the lasting effects of a natural disease or injury
- Blindness in both eyes (defined as having 20/200 eyesight or worse)
- Certain severe burns
If you suffered an injury involving the loss or loss of use of one foot or leg after September 11, 2001 and require the use of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair to balance or walk, 120 veterans per fiscal year can also qualify for a grant.
Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant
The second grant available is a Special Housing Adaptation grant. This funding is used for smaller adaptations, but it can also be used to buy, build or remodel your current home. You can get up to $20,215. In order to qualify for this, you have to own your home or own it in the future and have a service-connected disability. Eligible disabilities are different for this one:
- Loss or loss of function in both hands
- Certain severe burns
- Qualifying respiratory or breathing injuries
For both the SAH and SHA grants, you don’t have to use all the funding in the year that you received it. It can be used up to six times throughout your life.
Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA) Grant
The Temporary Residence Adaptation grant allows you to make changes to a home you’re living in temporarily in order to make it more suitable for working with your service-connected disability.
To qualify for this program, you must qualify for one of the two grants above. If you qualify for an SAH grant, you can receive up to $40,637. If your qualification is based on an existing SHA grant, funding is $7,256.
Funding Fee Exemption
The VA funding fee helps fund the VA home loan program. Although the VA loan has no down payment requirement, most getting a VA loan must pay this fee. The amount paid depends on the size of your down payment and whether it’s your first time using a VA loan or a subsequent use.
If you make a down payment of less than 5%, the fee is either 2.4% for a first use or 3.6% if you’ve already used your VA loan benefit before. For people going from an existing VA loan to a new one without taking cash out, the funding fee is 0.5%.
However, there are some exemptions to funding fee payment. Notably for this section, those who receive VA disability payments are exempt. If your disability claim is processed later and your award letter gives you payments retroactive to before your closing date, you can be refunded your funding fee through your VA Regional Loan Center.
Others exempt from the funding fee include those whom the VA considers surviving spouses and servicemembers who return to active duty after receiving a Purple Heart.
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How A Veteran Can Buy A House
If you’re looking to buy your own home, for the vast majority of veterans, a VA loan makes the most sense. At Rocket Mortgage, you can qualify with a median credit score is low as 580. If your median score is 620 or higher, you can qualify with a debt-to-income ratio of up to 60%, which can increase your purchase flexibility. Here are the basic steps to get a VA loan:
- Obtain your certificate of eligibility: This document gives you the right to purchase a home with a VA loan. You need to meet the VA’s minimum service time requirements. These are waived and if you were discharged due to a service-connected disability.
- Funding fee: Unless you qualify for one of the exemptions listed above, you will have to pay the VA funding fee. You can either save up for it or have it built into the loan amount.
- Get preapproved: Getting preapproved will let you know what the top end of your budget is so you can start looking at houses. Preapproval involves submission of documents like W-2s, 1099s, tax returns and evidence of disability benefits. We’ll also verify any assets you want to use to qualify for the home from bank and investment accounts. Finally, there’s a credit check to determine your qualifying score and your existing debts.
- Get an appraisal: An appraisal places a value on a home. This is necessary because lenders can’t loan you more than the home is worth. Additionally, all appraisals have basic health and safety guidelines that the property must pass. The VA has some special requirements including pest inspections in many states.
- Home inspection: Although this isn’t required, it’s never a bad idea to get a home inspection. A home inspector will go through the home with you and review the structure and systems in the home to look for any problems that currently exist as well as letting you know about potential future issues. If there are problems that need fixing, you can negotiate with the seller on these or walk away over a major issue if you have an inspection contingency.
- Close the deal: On closing day, you’ll have a final property inspection, pay whatever closing costs are due and sign the title paperwork. Then you’ll get the keys. Congratulations! You’re a homeowner!
The Bottom Line
Your service to your country is much appreciated. Thanks for all you’ve done! As a veteran, you should feel comfortable taking advantage of the assistance programs available to you to ensure you always have affordable, safe accommodations. There are also grants available for disabled veterans looking to buy or modify a home to work for them. Finally, a VA loan offers the ability to get into your own place with no down payment.
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