As the 70th Secretary of the Navy, I often toured U.S. naval bases domestically and abroad. On a tour of one U.S. base early in my tenure, my wife Margaret and I were appalled at the inadequate housing conditions we found where sailors were living.
There were many conditions that were highly unsatisfactory. Structures were not solid; termites were prevalent; there were holes in the floor; paint was peeling and in one house there was actually a hole in the ceiling that was not covered.
I was stunned that the men and women who were sacrificing so much were not given a decent place to live in return. After seeing the housing at these military installations in disrepair, I began a tireless campaign to improve the quality of housing for America’s service members. With the support and team work of Margaret and many of other public servants in the Pentagon, we were able to increase funding for housing by $100 million over a two-year period. I am grateful that Secretary of Defense Bill Perry responded to my appeal.
- JPMorgan Chase is joining HBO and Starbucks Coffee Company to present “The Concert for Valor”, a first-of-its-kind concert on the National Mall to honor the courage and sacrifice of America’s veterans and their families. Chase is also working to award 1,000 mortgage-free homes to deserving veterans and families, 700 of which have already been donated. To learn more, click here.
- Wells Fargo announced it has surpassed its three-year, $35 million goal by donating more than $49 million toward programs to help military service members, veterans and their families achieve and maintain homeownership. More than 230 Real Estate Owned properties valued at more than $37 million have been donated so far.
- On Veterans Day, Bank of America will present keys to mortgage-free homes to veterans and their families. Bank of America has also exceeded its home donation goal, donating more than 1,600 properties to military families through third-party nonprofits. The company has attended more than 150 military career events in 2014 alone to recruit top veteran talent to join the Bank of America team. Bank of America also runs their Our Express Your Thanks Campaign from July through through Veterans Day. They donate up to $1 million for Wounded Warrior Project and Welcome Back Veterans. Learn more and join them in their efforts by leaving your own message of support here.
- US Bank will mark Veterans Day by displaying its annual Veterans Day mosaic poster, which is created with photos submitted by employees of service members and their families. U.S. Bank’s “Proud to Serve” program is celebrating the now 1,800 veterans who will have joined the company as employees between January 2012 and December 2014.
- Quicken Loans recently announced that it is helping bring our nation’s heroes home by teaming with the military nonprofit Operation Homefront to provide round-trip airfare to more than 400 active duty service members or their families, totaling at least 2 million miles traveled. The company will provide a minimum of 400 trips and travel totaling at least 2 million miles, with a portion of travel being specifically made available for service members to return home during the December holiday season. For more information or to apply, click here.
- Walter Investment Management Corp. is announcing the launch of “Thanks4YourService”, which offers customers who are serving or formerly served in the military with a $500 gift card after closing on a home loan.
- HOPE NOW Alliance, an industry-nonprofit partnership effort under the umbrella of the Housing Policy Council, launched a new podcast series today targeted at educating military homeowners about housing issues related to the military. The first eight podcasts in the series are available here.
Homeownership, and the stability that comes with it, is a key goal for many members of the United States military service. Seventy-five percent of military members and their families say that owning a home is one of the most important things to accomplish after returning from service, and 88 percent of veterans say that owning a home makes them feel safer, according to a 2013 Century 21 Real Estate survey of 437 military members and spouses.
Financial institutions can do more to help military families achieve and maintain the dream of homeownership. For example, many active-duty service members are unaware of the housing-related protections to which they are entitled under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Under the SCRA, certain financial obligations can be relieved, postponed or suspended when military members are called upon to serve their nation. These protections can help people who might otherwise fall behind on their mortgages. But some military families do not know they are eligible for these benefits, while others are uncertain about the steps required to apply for them.
Today President Barack Obama announced voluntary industry commitments by several member companies to the Financial Services Roundtable and its Housing Policy Council to broaden the companies’ efforts under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA suspends or postpones certain civil and financial obligations for service members who have dropped their personal affairs to answer their nation’s call to military duty.
The general commitment by these companies is beyond what current SCRA law requires.