Finding an affordable home is becoming more and more troublesome for many American families, but the process seems to be even more problematic for veterans looking for housing. In addition to the often challenging social reintegration process, health issues and the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, many retired members of the armed forces have to face the housing shortage. Some of them end up in the streets. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that more than 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. In fact, veterans make up roughly 12 percent of the adult homeless population.
Last year, in an effort to help impoverished former service members, The Lynd Co. became the real estate adviser and property management company for Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation (IAVF), a non-profit organization involved in providing quality housing for veterans. Lynd identifies projects that meet IAVF’s criteria and present the investment opportunity. The organization’s board votes on the approval of the deal and then, the company handles all real estate-related work for each project as well as property management operations, once the project is complete.
David Lynd is now the president & CEO of Lynd, after his father—Vietnam veteran Mike Lynd—appointed him in this leadership position in March. Together with IAVF, the company has been striving to ease the shortage of affordable housing for veterans. Christopher Walker, general counsel & board member for IAVF, created the Patriot Housing Initiative, a program designed for former military staff and their families. Lynd and Walker discuss why housing for veterans is hard to find and what can be done about it.
How serious is the need of affordable housing for veterans in the U.S. today?
Lynd: Given the fact that an average of 20,000 new veterans are added to the population each month, I would say there is definitely a growing demand. This, coupled with the rising cost of rental housing in most major cities throughout the U.S., shows there is a growing need to provide affordable housing now and for the long term.
What are the challenges of managing veterans housing properties?
Lynd: Given the fact many of the veterans who we serve are just coming back from major conflicts, integrating them back into the normal grind of life here in the U.S. can be challenging. This is where IAVF comes in with their social service programs. They offer support both monetarily and emotionally to these heroes. Other services that they provide are rides to the Veterans Affairs hospital and assistance in accessing their VA benefits.
We know your father is a Vietnam veteran. How much is this helping you in your management activity?
Lynd: My father’s service to our country and the discipline he learned while in the U.S. Army permeate everything we do here at Lynd—from punctuality at meetings to the fighting spirit we teach all our people. In addition, my father feels obligated to give back to his brothers in arms in a meaningful way. Providing them with a safe, reliable home is the basis for getting their lives back on track. With this program, we are allowing our American heroes the chance to integrate back into the society they fought so hard to protect.
Lynd: To date, we have placed into homes around 320 or so veterans that would have been homeless. We did this in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program. The IAVF has intentions to grow its Veterans Housing Initiative to approximately 3,000-5,000 units a year. Their goal is to be the largest private provider of housing for veterans in the country.
Which areas of the country suffer most from the lack of affordable housing for veterans?
Walker: This is a systemic problem across the U.S. and certainly not isolated to any particular region. At any given time, there are tens of thousands of homeless veterans on the streets of the U.S. Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois and the Carolinas have a critical need, but every state in the U.S. faces this issue. Our goal is to help those that have served to “get back on their feet” after life circumstances alter what post-service plans might have otherwise been thought out.
What are your plans for the coming years?
Walker: The board has set a strategic goal of acquiring an additional 2,500 units. The goal is to set aside approximately 20 to 25 percent of those units for veterans looking for housing. The foundation will also continue to roll out a variety of social services across the properties we own.
Images courtesy of The Lynd Co.