Veteran Porsche Williams, standing with the director of DCHA Housing Choice Voucher Program Ronald McCoy, holds the keys to her new apartment following a recent Meet & Lease event. : (AFRO/ Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman)

More than 100 veterans with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers were able to meet landlords, see available units, and sign leases at a special event held recently by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA), U.S. Veterans Administration, and the District’s Department of Human Services.  With rising market rates for housing in the District and surrounding areas,veterans often find housing options limited.

Through the DCHA Veterans Housing Meet & Lease Event, expedited pre-inspections and rental contract approvals for available units were offered, streamlining the process for securing housing and effectively cutting wait times down by months.

Some veterans, like Vincente Best, learned tools to help navigate online applications and veteran-specific housing perks in one of several sessions designed to introduce the city’s multi-agency approach to housing seekers.

“The hardest part of trying to get housing is finding a place where you want to be that is in your price range.  The seminar that Veterans Affairs provided today put me in touch with several landlords at properties I didn’t know existed,” Best said.  “It has been a great way of bringing veterans, like myself, with a need in contact with those who can fill those needs.”

Others, like Porsche Williams, were able to leave the Meet & Lease with signed leases and the keys to their new units.  For Williams, who filled out her voucher forms only a week earlier, the event helped expedite the process immensely.

“Since Obama came into office there has been a push to secure the rights of veterans and to bring awareness to a lot of the issues we face,” said Williams, who has lived in several locations because of deployment.  “We are disciplined and neat so we make ideal tenants, but we also need things like furniture, and business clothes for when we go out to look for work.  We have risked our lives to serve our country and now, through a number of agency partnerships, a lot of our needs are being met.”

Ronald McCoy, director of DCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) said that the cost of leasing in the current market makes it extremely tough for veterans and their families to secure housing around the District.

“We have a large concentration within Wards 7 and 8 because there are lower-rent units; however, even that is changing.  You have some areas because of development that even within an existing unit, once building renovations are made, the rents then go sky high,” McCoy said.

DCHA has been able to increase their payments on behalf of veterans from 110 percent to 130 percent.

“Our veterans and their families deserve to live where everyone else lives.  It is just so much harder to place them because the rental rates are so high, even with the increase in payment percentage,” McCoy said.

Earlier this spring, DCHA received more than $1.2 million from HUD for its VASH voucher program – an increase of 104 vouchers to serve veterans and their families. This year’s allocation builds on the 930 VASH vouchers the authority had in place last year, bringing the total to 1,034 veteran families that can be assisted with affordable housing.

“The best way for us to honor those who served in our military is to make sure these veterans have safe homes for themselves and their families,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman.