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Real estate industry must be part of solution to end veteran homelessness

By John Banks, president, REBNY

As Veterans Day approaches, consider that there are nearly 900 homeless veterans in New York City.

In 2010, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness introduced a plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The City has launched a program called “Mission Home” in order to help reach that goal, and REBNY is calling on our members to join this worthy effort.

Since January 2014, New York City has seen a 50 percent decrease in homeless veterans, and only about 10 of those veterans are still living on the streets. The remainder are living in City Department of Homeless Services shelters and federal Veterans Affairs-funded transitional housing.

However, the city’s overall four-part plan to end veteran homelessness is far from complete – the steps of this plan include decreasing entry into shelter, increasing the housing supply dedicated to veterans, instituting policy and system changes to expedite and improve quality of placements, and increasing accountability for all stakeholders.

Increasing the supply of housing available to veterans is one of the most important steps in this plan, and the step which would benefit most from outside help.

The city’s Mission Home plan aims to vastly reduce the number of homeless veterans in NYC.

Over the next two months the City is dedicating hundreds of its publicly financed apartments, but it needs hundreds more from the private sector.

The City has worked to ensure that all our homeless veterans have, or are in the process of obtaining, rental subsidies, and they have put in place an improved system to match veterans with the housing that best suits their needs. To this end, there are many incentives for collaboration.

These incentives include a 15 percent broker bonus for brokers who connect veterans with Living in Communities (LINC) apartments or units that can be subsidized using Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH),NYC Housing Preservation and Development Section 8, and Medicaid Redesign Team vouchers; a $1,000 landlord incentive for every apartment and commercial Single Room Occupancy (SRO) unit with a one-year lease signed by a homeless veteran; a $500 room rental incentive for every one-year lease signed for landlords renting rooms through the LINC program to veterans; and access to a rental guarantee fund of up to $3,000 per year per apartment for landlords who house veterans. This guarantee fund can be used to cover potential damage to the apartment or assist with the payment of rental arrears, as needed.

Once appropriate housing is identified for each veteran, the placement will be sustained as necessary through programs such as aftercare services, veteran peer co-ordinators, a LINC rental guarantee fund, and various methods of identifying high-need veterans.

The ultimate goal of “Mission Home” is to reach “Functional Zero,” a term meaning that there are no un-sheltered veterans, no newly-homeless veterans who remain so for more than 90 days, and that at any given time, there are no more than 300 homeless veterans in New York City.

The real estate industry can and must be part of the solution. Ending veteran homelessness is an ambitious, but achievable goal, and our industry’s collaboration with government is the key to making it possible.

In other REBNY News:

REBNY’s Members’ Luncheon will take place on November 4 at the Hilton New York from 11:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, “Big Picture, Big Deals of 2015 and Beyond…,” moderated by Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of the New York Tri-State Region of CBRE, and the panelists include Tim Callahan, CEO of Callahan Capital Properties, Maryanne Gilmartin, CEO and President of Forest City Ratner Companies, and David Levinson, Chairman & CEO of L&L Holding Company, LLC. To register, visit or contact Desiree Jones at

The 9th Annual Building Service Awards is on November 5 at 32BJ SEIU, located at 25 West 18th Street. This event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and will be a recognition and celebration of the people who keep our homes, offices, schools, and public buildings clean and running smoothly. To nominate someone, visit

REBNY’s next Residential Breakfast Club seminar will be on November 10 from 9:30a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Mendik Education Center. These seminars are an informative, interactive, and free way for participants to spend 90 minutes with dynamic residential colleagues who are known for a particular expertise. Registration is required. To find out more, visit or Yesenia Dhanraj at



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