America’s Military and America’s Real Estate

In honor of Veteran’s Day this coming Friday, November 11, we begin our series on the changing American homebuyer with a focus on returning military personnel. As Americans ready themselves to welcome home more than 33,000 military troops from Afghanistan and 40,000 from Iraq (with an eventual return of approximately 1 million vets), military women and men must themselves prepare for the challenge of successful reintegration into American life. Especially given the economy’s downturn, our troops will face many obstacles. They’ll need healthcare, support, jobs, and housing for themselves and their families. Obviously, all four area work together: a person can’t really have one without the other. But our particular research is on how veterans may impact the nation’s real estate market, and how they too can realize the “American Dream” of homeownership.

 

Real Estate and Vets

 

  • Jobs

 

For veterans to become homebuyers, they will need employment. In April of 2011, President Obama asked Congress to approve new initiatives to help some of America’s 1 million unemployed military veterans find work, including tax credits for companies that hire vets. The President was no doubt responding to alarming statistics: Unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans rose to 15% in April 2010, significantly higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.7%. This was before the upcoming withdrawal of troops.

 

The proposed bill, the American Jobs Act, offers two different tax credits to companies that hire veterans:

 

  • The “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” would provide companies with a $5,600 tax credit for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for six months or longer.
  • The “Wounded Warriors Tax Credit” would provide companies with a $9,600 tax credit for hiring veterans who have service-connected disabilities and have been unemployed for six months or longer.

 

To date, Congress has not passed this legislation, which could make the holiday homecoming of nearly 40,000 soldiers a rough one. Without job prospects, veteran homebuyers will have a difficult time qualifying home loans, and even if they can qualify through the VA or similar special program, they won’t have income to make monthly payments.

  • Geography and Returning Military

 

Because more young adults enlisting in military service are from rural areas than from urban areas, rural communities have already been deeply impacted by war. A 2006 Carsey

Institute study showed that although rural areas account for only 19% of the American population, they have suffered 27% of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, veterans returning to rural hometowns will find the war’s toll heavy as it adds to an overall economic malaise already so acutely felt in America’s less prosperous areas. Ironically, these areas offer some of the nation’s least expensive real estate, so in theory, if vets can access loans and jobs, they could be part of an economic turn-around. But if unemployment and sluggish home sales are problems in rural communities now, we can only expect them to be more so without some practical and accessible assistance from local, state and federal sources for these individuals returning from active service.

  • Homeless Vets

 

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that “about one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans.” The VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Again, disturbing enough already, these numbers have been tallied from all previous wars, and therefore do not include numbers from the impending withdrawals from the Middle-East. The country will have to work quickly to ensure former military personale have access to homes.

 

Hope of the Horizon

 

While the numbers frighten and concern all of us, we do have real hope and help in this country for our returning veterans, and that included help with buying a home. We’ll return Wednesday with a list of these resources, as well as a brief investigation into the kinds of homes that will best serve these incredibly brave women and men who so deserve their part of the “American Dream.”