Rooney introduces bipartisan bill to support new housing options for homeless veterans

The nation’s 40,000 homeless veterans could see more housing opportunities under bipartisan legislation from U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) that would help convert abandoned properties into housing for formerly homeless veterans.

The Housing Our Heroes Act was introduced by Rooney last week with U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). The bill would establish a three-year pilot program to help non-governmental and veterans organizations buy and convert blighted properties into housing for homeless veterans.

“I am proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues and provide veterans experiencing homelessness with a true path to homeownership,” Rooney said. “Although some communities, like Charlotte County, Florida in my district, have been recognized for their efforts in ending homelessness among veterans, we must continue working to ensure that no veteran — no matter where they live — is left out in the cold.”

Despite a 46 percent reduction in homeless veterans since 2009, the number still remains above the 40,000 threshold, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports.

“We’ve got vets who need a home, and we’ve got homes sitting vacant and attracting crime – this bill kills two birds with one stone – it’s really a no-brainer,” Maloney said.

Stefanik’s district in New York has more veterans than any other district in the state, and the legislation would help honor the commitment made to those who defended the nation, she said.

“The Housing Our Heroes Act will ensure our veterans have a roof over their head and a bed to sleep in at night,” Stefanik said. “Taking care of our veterans strengthens our communities, and I encourage all of my colleagues to support this important bill.”

Under the legislation, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs would be directed to establish a three-year, $25 million pilot grant program to acquire and renovate abandoned homes, including homes that have been foreclosed, for homeless veterans.

“No one who has put their life on the line for our country, and may still bear the physical and mental scars of that service, should be forced to live unsheltered on the streets,” Schneider said. “This bipartisan bill presents a win-win common sense solution to help both our veterans find a safe place to call home, while also supporting the revitalization of our communities by renovating previously abandoned properties.”