At Banking Hearing, Tester Pushes Expansion of Affordable Housing for Veterans

Senator’s HOUSE Act would expand HUD-VASH program to veterans with Other-Than-Honorable discharges

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today pushed for an expansion of the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the nation’s growing affordable housing crisis.

HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) combining HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help homeless veterans and their families find permanent housing.

How adequate is [the HUD-VASH] program for meeting the needs out there for veterans?” Tester asked Ivory N. Matthews, Interim Executive of Columbia Housing. “And, by the way, I’ve got a bill to expand it to include Other-Than-Honorable discharged veterans because a lot of these folks get PTSD and then they get booted out of the military through no fault of their own through their experience. So the question is, right now, how effective is that program in meeting the needs of homeless veterans?”

Senator Tester recently introduced the Veteran Housing Opportunities and Unemployment Support Extension (HOUSE) Act, a bipartisan bill allowing veterans with Other-Than-Honorable discharges to participate in the HUD-VASH program. Specifically, it expands access to vital HUD-VASH case management services, connecting chronically homeless veterans with the resources they need to find employment and housing. Tester also introduced Tribal HUD-VASH, which provides rental assistance for homeless or at-risk Native veterans and will improve case management services, provide housing for eligible homeless Native veterans by mandating federal agencies to work cooperatively and ensure program accountability through Congressional reporting.

During the hearing, Tester talked broadly about Montana’s affordable housing crises and the effect it has on the state’s economy: “We’ve got issues with affordable housing and workforce housing throughout this country. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking urban areas or rural areas. In fact, I would say that in Montana, it’s probably the biggest inhibitor for economic development that we have right now because there’s simply not any housing.”

Tester is a strong advocate for expanding affordable housing opportunities in Montana. Through his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he played a key role in negotiating a bipartisan budget deal that made substantial investments into affordable housing initiatives including the HOME and CDBG programs. Earlier this year he helped secure more than $4 million for Public Housing Authorities across Montana and more than $26 million for affordable housing in Indian Country.

Read more about Tester’s efforts to expand affordable housing in Montana HERE.