A report by the National Housing Conference titled Housing and Service Needs of Our Changing Veteran Population finds that nearly 50% of veterans who are single mothers have housing cost burdens, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. In comparison, 25% of all veterans have cost burdens. The study reports that housing options for veterans who are single mothers are limited or nonexistent in some areas. The report assesses the housing needs of three veteran subpopulation groups: female veterans, veterans at least 55 years of age, and post-September 11, 2001 veterans.
According to the Veterans’ Administration (VA), there are 2.3 million female veterans. While female veterans in general face significant economic and housing challenges, the report identifies veterans who are single mothers as particularly vulnerable to housing cost burdens compared to veterans in general. Half (72,300) of the households headed by veterans who are single mothers have housing cost burdens. This number is expected to grow as the number of female veterans grows in the coming decades. According to the study, options for women with children are limited because most veterans are men and many homeless and transitional housing providers serving veterans historically have tailored their services to single adult men.
Although 2.5 million households headed by veterans at least 55 years of age have housing cost burdens, older veteran households are less likely to have housing cost burdens than households headed by older civilians (24% vs. 33%). Older veterans however are more likely to have a disability than older civilians (35% vs. 28%). Some older veterans may require home modifications for accessibility, while others will require health and other supportive services as they age. According to the VA, the number of veterans over the age of 85 is projected to increase by 37% over the next 20 years. This growth will increase the need for supportive services to deal with physical limitations and health issues.
According to the VA, 1.7 million veterans joined the military after September 11, 2001. This number is expected to double over the next decade. Post 9/11 veterans represent greater gender and ethnic diversity than previous generations; nearly 20% are women and 36% belong to a racial or ethnic minority. While the report does not report cost burdens for post 9/11 veterans, they typically did not earn enough income to afford the cost of a one-bedroom rental.
The National Housing Conference provides several policy recommendations, including:
- Increasing project-based rental assistance for veterans;
- Improving administrative provisions, such as increased administrative fees for agencies administering HUD-VASH vouchers, and using a longer project readiness timeline to coordinate financing commitments;
- Increasing Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocations;
- Creating an Office of Veterans’ Rental Housing within the VA to help housing developers navigate the VA’s existing housing programs and align them with other funding sources; and
- Sustaining and expanding funding for supportive services combined with housing.
The report draws on data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS), the VA Office of the Actuary, and the Department of Defense.
Housing and Service Needs of Our Changing Veteran Population is available at http://www.nhc.org/VeteransHousingReport_final.pdf