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DEFENSE COMMUNITIES 360

Bill Would Expand Service Members’ Eligibility for Affordable Housing

  • June 2, 2011
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In an effort to increase the supply of housing for soldiers stationed at Fort Drum, New York Rep. Bill Owens (D) introduced legislation Thursday that would extend access to housing financed with low-income housing tax credits to service members based at any installation.

Legislation enacted in 2008 altered the way the basic allowance for housing was treated when determining whether military personnel are eligible to rent the low-cost housing. Without the adjustment, most members of the military would not qualify for housing built through the program. The 2008 law applies to only nine installations, however.

Owens’ bill, the Military Families Affordable Homes Act, would make it easier for service members from any installation to qualify for Section 42 housing.

The 2008 law has been successful in expanding the supply of available housing for service members at several installations with a shortfall, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last month. Officials at Fort Drum, which does not qualify under the current exception, estimate that changing how the basic allowance for housing is treated would result in the construction of 200 tax credit housing units near the North Country post.

Fort Drum has a deficit of about 1,700 family housing units, representing almost 20 percent of family housing demand at the installation, according to the GAO report. Installation and local officials expect the housing shortage to worsen next year when all but 1,000 of Fort Drum’s deployed soldiers are slated to be at the post for the first time since its population grew recently.

One impact of the existing shortage is that many soldiers move to Drum without their families, making it easier to find housing.

“This legislation is another step towards helping alleviate the housing crunch around Fort Drum by incentivizing the construction of new affordable housing,” Owens said.

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