America Supports You: National Group Helps Wounded Troops Buy Homes
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2008 A recent study that estimates nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night has spurred Operation Homefront, a national troop-support group, to action.
Through its Wounded Warrior Housing Project, Operation Homefront is helping wounded veterans become homeowners. The group is working with home builders and mortgage lenders to make homes like this one in Glendale, Ariz., affordable through price reductions and lower mortgage rates. Photo courtesy of Operation Homefront
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The study, titled “Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans,” estimated that on any given night in 2006, 195,827 veterans were homeless. The number represents nearly 25 percent of the nation’s homeless population.
Operation Homefront provides emergency assistance and promotes morale for troops and their families. The organization is connecting wounded veterans, who can face financial trials during recovery, with home builders and mortgage lenders to make home ownership easier.
The group is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
“When the statistics came out about one in four homeless is a veteran, that was when we said, ‘That’s it,’” said Meredith Leyva, founder of Operation Homefront. “That’s exactly what’s going to happen to our guys if we don’t have a long-term vision here and implement it now.
“(We are working with) … home builders to basically sell their excess inventory to wounded warriors,” Leyva said, explaining that her organization’s role is to make connections and help negotiate the best deals possible. “These are good homes, and (the builders) are dropping the price by $30,000 to $50,000.”
The goal is to sell entire swaths of neighborhoods, ideally near Veterans Affairs medical facilities, to wounded warriors, she said. This creates an understanding community.
“It’s a community that’s going to look out for each other,” Leyva said. “And even in the worst of times, they’ve still got their house.”
To sweeten the deal further, Operation Homefront is working with mortgage lenders to negotiate lower interest rates on 30-year home loans.
The group also is asking lenders for a little compassion if a new homeowner should miss mortgage payments because of medical issues, Leyva said. That would require a statement from the doctor and a repayment plan, however, and there is no guarantee that the original lender won’t sell the loan to another company who might not be so understanding.
As excited as Operation Homefront is about the program, its officials are realistic about how long it will take to get up a head of steam.
“This is going to take months, because people just can’t make a commitment of hundreds of thousands of dollars on either the builders’ or the lenders’ side without some serious thought as to how they’re going to do it,” she said. “It’ll take a good three to six months to build up some really solid commitments from builders and lenders.”
Home builders in Arizona, as well as the Houston Housing Authority in Texas, have given the program a good start by committing a number of homes, Leyva said.