Thursday, June 13, 2024

Empower homefront heroes with source of income freedom, fairness

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This Memorial Day, Dr. Lee Davenport writes, in addition to words of gratitude and affirmation, it’s even more important that our veterans have access to affordable housing choices that accept their hard-earned benefits. 

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Did you know that some veterans and their families are being denied housing, not because of sketchy background checks or dismal credit, but simply because they want to use their hard-earned military benefits?

Have you ever noticed the rental ads that automatically say, “No vouchers allowed” or something similar?

Well, that excludes a lot of people, including those who are veterans and members of military families. And, unfortunately, part of the benefits that those who have served, as well as their families, receive comes in the form of a subsidy, also known as the “shamed and shunned” housing voucher.

Check out the video up top and read on as I share more information about the struggles veterans face when finding affordable housing and some action steps you can take to help become an advocate for them.

‘Vouchers to nowhere’

Whether we call it a subsidy or voucher, it all falls under one’s source of income.

Currently, on this map the blue, whether dark or light, represents places that actually have some form of source of income protections. Everywhere else on this map, shockingly, does not.

In many of the places where landlords and other real estate professionals are opposing legislation to protect those who have some form of an income subsidy in order to have housing choices, there is also an affordable housing crisis. That means opting out of income subsidies takes away a lot of housing options for military families along with others when and where a source of income freedom is not a legal right.

The ‘problems’ with vouchers

Protected classes under federal, state and local fair housing laws ensure that people who can legally qualify for a home (whether buying or leasing) are given the freedom of choice, access and opportunity without regard to some superficial, tangential line like one’s color, use of an assistive device or if one’s income is sourced by the government through employment or a subsidy. 

Yet, what is protected in one state may not be in others. To that point, source of income protections are not nationwide as some cite the hassle of voucher programs, deepening the affordable housing crisis for many, including some veterans.

Personally, whether I was working as a property manager or as the landlord of my own properties, I always loved working with people who had vouchers. One, you could still do background and credit checks — you still could do what you needed to do to make sure they qualify for the home and would take care of the home. Two, once your property was approved and you signed up for direct deposit, the funds typically hit like clockwork (at least for me in Georgia).

Yes, it could be a minor hassle to deal with the voucher program’s property inspections, but the inspection report and subsequent repair requests typically were the things that anybody living in a home would expect to have in working order.

Frankly, I pivoted my thinking to seeing the voucher program’s annual home inspections as a complimentary service that ensured my properties stayed in tip-top shape without my doling out cash to have my own, separate annual inspection (which we did with properties outside of the voucher program).

Housing options > Words of affirmation

Memorial Day is in a few weeks, and I know many of us like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you for your service,” which is nice. But, in addition to words of gratitude and affirmation, it’s even more important that our veterans have access to affordable housing choices that accept their hard-earned benefits. 

If you are in a city, county or state that does not have source of income as a protected class generally, and veterans/military particularly, then I want to encourage you to contact your local government officials to make this a priority. Goodness knows some of my representatives’ staff knows me by name!

You may be pleasantly surprised and discover they are looking for more real estate industry voices in favor of fair housing for veterans, as well as others who receive subsidized income.

Dr. Lee Davenport is a real estate coach/educator and author who trains real estate agents to provide access and opportunity in real estate. Connect with her on Instagram.

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