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CRS — VA Housing: Guaranteed Loans, Direct Loans, and Specially Adapted Housing Grants

February 14, 2013

VA Housing: Guaranteed Loans, Direct Loans, and Specially Adapted Housing Grants (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has assisted veterans with homeownership since 1944, when Congress enacted the loan guaranty program to help veterans returning from World War II purchase homes. The loan guaranty program assists veterans by insuring mortgages made by private lenders, and is available for the purchase or construction of homes as well as to refinance existing loans. The loan guaranty has expanded over the years so that it is available to (1) all veterans who fulfill specific duration of service requirements or who were released from active duty due to service-connected disabilities, (2) members of the reserves who completed at least six years of service, and (3) spouses of veterans who died in action, of service-connected disabilities, or who died while receiving (or were entitled to receive) benefits for certain service-connected disabilities (see Table 1). Under the loan guaranty, the VA agrees to reimburse lenders for a portion of losses if borrowers default. Unlike insurance provided through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance program, the VA does not insure 100% of the loan, and instead the percentage of the loan that is guaranteed is based on the principal balance of the loan (see Table 3).

Veterans who enter into VA-guaranteed loans must pay an up-front fee based on a number of factors that include the type of loan entered into (for example, purchase or refinance), whether service was active duty or in the reserves, whether the loan is the first or subsequent VA loan a borrower has entered into, and the amount of down payment (see Table 6). Borrowers are not required to make a down payment for a VA-guaranteed loan, but the up-front fee is reduced if there is a down payment of 5% or more. Most borrowers (88% in FY2011) do not make a down payment.

In addition to guaranteeing loans from private lenders, the VA also makes direct loans to borrowers in certain circumstances. The original VA direct loan, which was targeted to veterans in rural areas, is now available only to veterans or servicemembers with certain service-connected disabilities. Another direct loan program, originally enacted as a demonstration program in 1992, serves Native American veterans, including veterans living in American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In addition, the VA may enter into direct loans in cases where a borrower is delinquent or defaults on a VA-guaranteed loan. The VA may either acquire a loan from a lender and continue servicing itself (called “acquired loans”) or, in cases of foreclosure, the VA may purchase the property and resell it. In these cases, the VA may enter into a loan with a purchaser whether he or she is a veteran or not (called “vendee loans”).

A third way in which the VA provides housing assistance to both veterans and active duty servicemembers is through the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Program. Through the SAH program, veterans with certain service-connected disabilities may obtain grants from the VA to purchase or remodel homes to fit their needs. The amount of a grant depends on the disability, and in some cases grants can be used to modify the homes of family members with whom veterans or servicemembers are staying (see Table 7).

This report discusses these three types of housing assistance—the loan guaranty program, direct loan programs, and Specially Adapted Housing program—their origins, how they operate, and how they are funded. The report also has a section that discusses the default and foreclosure of VA-guaranteed loans.

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