Open a newspaper and you will see that foreclosures are a growing problem for homeowners and neighborhoods everywhere. Every day, there are people being evicted or voluntarily leaving their homes and condos because of their inability to pay the mortgages. The results have been devastating to families and the communities that they leave behind. As any homeowner with a bank-owned home on his or her block can attest, it’s a problem not just for the bank but also for the neighborhood. Banks can’t sell them quick enough to please neighbors or shareholders. How can we fix it? By turning once again to our bravest.
Right now there are more than 20 thousand wounded warriors from the war on terror. These are men and women who have served honorably and bravely in our cause against radical Islam and its terrorist adherents. Many of these returning wounded warriors will have significantly altered job prospects. While some choose to remain in the service, many will not, facing the prospect of honorable discharge and no job.
This will create a real strain on families at home. The uncertainty they face is scary and can create a sense of hopelessness. We owe them better.
And how better to repay the debt we owe them than to make available these bank-owned and foreclosed-upon property to these heroes at greatly reduced prices.
The private sector has already stepped up by creating places such as Operation Homefront Village, a multi-million dollar wounded warrior housing complex, near Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., that will enable wounded soldiers to live rent-free with their families during treatment at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda. But this fix is only temporary, providing at most an 18-24 month answer.
It is one thing to give these troops standing ovations or free cups of coffee when you see them in the airport or about town: this is about showing the gratitude of a great nation. We all need to step up and help out. Congress could actually provide tax incentives to banks trying to get these vacant properties off their bankrolls and into the hands of wounded warriors and their families. Municipalities could also get involved by providing property tax easements as well. The private sector could also help by providing services to these new homeowners. Lockheed Martin provided significant funding to Operation Homefront Village. What about Lowe’s, Home Depot or Target also stepping up to help get these houses right? In the public sector, Habitat for Humanity certainly has a track record of charitable endeavors, getting homes into the hands of those who are willing to trade sweat equity — what about Habitats for Heroes?
No neighborhood wants to see an empty house, overgrown with weeds and blight, and any neighborhood would be well served by full houses populated by these heroes.
These returned war vets would have a place to call home, and their neighbors would have the best kind of neighbor there is — a selfless honorable individual. Let’s solve part of the problem of foreclosures and, at the same time, give these heroes a place to call home.