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On September 11, 2014, Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity intro- duced a new program thanks to funding from the West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund. With a focus on helping formerly homeless veterans become homeowners and titled the Veterans Housing Initiative, the program constructsnewsingle-familyhousessolelyforsingle,adultveterans. Acollab- orative program with the Huntington VA Medical Center’s Community Re- source and Referral Center (CRRC), the Veterans Housing Initiative provides veterans the opportunity to own their own simple, decent, affordable and energy-efficient homes.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homeless- ness due to poverty, lack of a support network and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. According to the Huntington VA Medical Center, there could be as many as 255 homeless veterans in our community by the end of 2015. The first of its kind in West Virginia, and possibly the nation, Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Housing Initiative is tackling the housing problem within our community by creating a program to address the plight of local veterans.

Formerly homeless veterans who are currently renting an apartment or house and have expressed an interest in homeownership are eligible for the Veterans Housing Initiative. Veterans are selected and approved through the VA Medical Center. Much like Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity’s new homeownership program, veterans who participate in the Veterans Housing Initiative are required to complete a minimum of 100 sweat equity hours (of which 20 hours are earned by taking homeowner education classes) and are responsible for paying back a no-profit, no- interest mortgage to the affiliate over a 25-year period of time.

The benefits of this program go beyond providing a new home for a veteran in need; once that veteran moves into a completed home, the housing voucher he or she was using can be utilized by another homeless veteran in the commu- nity to secure housing. The Veterans Housing Initiative “pays it forward” so to speak. Furthermore, the homes con- structed as part of this program are smaller than the typical Habitat model, providing 600 square feet of living space.

The fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Huntington, West Virginia, ranges from $425 per month (without utilities) to $533 per month (including utili- ties). A no-interest, no-profit $25,000 mortgage for 20 years on a one-bedroom Veterans Housing Initiative Home cost $217.17 per month--including taxes, insur- ance,refuseandmunicipalservicefees. Ataminimum,thisismorethana$200 cost savings per month for veterans in our community. Additionally, through the Veterans Housing Initiative, veterans are moving into safe, decent, affordable and energy-efficient homes.

Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity dedicated the first two Veterans Housing Initiative homes on November 11, 2014 (Veterans Day). The affiliate plans to construct and dedicate the remaining 8 homes in 2015.

Together, the Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity and West Virginia Af- fordable Housing Trust Fund are serving those who have served to protect our freedoms!