The Real Deal New York

Why a veteran with $3,600-a-month housing stipend struggled to find housing in NYC

Landlords and brokers are unfamiliar with programs for vets
June 25, 2018 09:04AM

Alex Donahue (Credit: LinkedIn and Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition)

One U.S. Air Force veteran with a $3,600-a-month housing budget had to become homeless before he could find a place to live in the city.

Alex Donahue, 31, moved to the city to attend the City University of New York, and had a monthly housing allowance from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

But he had difficulty finding an apartment, because his housing allowance – along with additional veteran’s compensation – comes tax free. So on paper, it looked like he didn’t earn any income.

“I’d heard the city runs on money, and I came here with that thought: If it’s income, it’s income,” Donahue told the New York Times. “But I was turned away from place after place because my tax returns said zero.”

Landlords and real estate agents he spoke with were unfamiliar with veterans and income and were unwilling to accept it, Donahue said.

When Donahue’s stay at a hostel drew to a close, he was left with only one option. He got in touch with the city’s Department of Veterans’ Services, which gave him a bed in a veteran’s shelter.

Working with the agency, he was able to find a landlord who would take his income documentation for a $1,500-a-month studio in Flushing, Queens. It helped too that the broker he found for the apartment on Craigslist was also a veteran. And the city offers landlords a $1,000 bonus – an amount that’s since been raised to $3,500 – if they rent apartments to homeless veterans. [NYT] – Rich Bockmann