Cover: Recent Trends in Housing Cost Burden Among U.S. Military Veterans

Recent Trends in Housing Cost Burden Among U.S. Military Veterans

Published Oct 12, 2023

by Daniel Schwam, Jason M. Ward, Stephanie Brooks Holliday, Sarah B. Hunter

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Research Questions

  1. How do veteran rates of housing cost burden (HCB) compare with those of nonveterans?
  2. How do these trends change or remain consistent when examining various subgroups?
  3. How have these rates and trends changed over the past 15 years?

Although U.S. veterans are less likely than nonveterans to live in poverty, past estimates have found that millions of veteran households spend more than half their income on housing costs, suggesting they are at increased risk of experiencing housing instability and, in some cases, might be at risk of becoming homeless.

The authors of this report compared trends between veterans and nonveterans to (1) estimate the number of U.S. military veterans who experience financial burden from housing costs and (2) provide context for how these estimates have changed over the past 15 years. The authors also take a deeper look at these observed differences between veteran and nonveteran households, considering how they vary among various subgroups.

Key Findings

  • Fewer veteran households than nonveteran ones are financially burdened by housing costs (defined as spending more than 30 percent of gross household income on housing).
  • This lower level of HCB reflects both higher incomes and lower costs of homeownership among veterans on average, although income growth among nonveterans has outpaced veteran income growth and reduced the differences over the past several years.
  • Veterans are more likely to be homeowners than nonveterans are, and veteran homeowners have lower housing costs than nonveteran homeowners. However, for veterans who rent, housing costs are similar or, in some regions, larger than those for comparable nonveterans.
  • The gap in HCB experienced by veterans relative to nonveterans shrinks as income lowers; veterans and nonveterans with the lowest income levels have similarly high levels of HCB.
  • In contrast to veterans overall, veterans who served after September 11, 2001, (post-9/11) experience greater HCB than nonveterans do. This is due, in part, to recent increases in housing and rent prices and the fact that more post-9/11 veterans are renters, but more research is needed on the factors driving this relationship.
  • Although veterans are less likely to be women, the female veteran population is expected to grow over the next few decades. We found evidence consistent with past research showing that female veterans are more likely to face housing instability than male veterans, suggesting a need to focus on better meeting the housing needs of this population.

Research conducted by

Funding for this research was made possible by a generous gift from Daniel J. Epstein through the Epstein Family Foundation. The research was conducted by the RAND Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute within RAND Education and Labor.

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