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My Turn: Support housing opportunity for veterans

Our state housing discrimination law promises housing opportunity for all, but when it comes to low-income veterans receiving rental assistance, it needs improvement.

Many landlords across the state won’t accept tenants who have rental assistance, including low-income veterans receiving help from the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program. This rental assistance is vital for many veterans to be able to afford the rent.

Some New Hampshire veterans returning home from service abroad face many challenges – getting jobs, physical and mental health care and disability benefits, and finding affordable housing. Because there is too little money available, low-income veterans, many of whom are homeless or risk becoming homeless, are forced to wait years before receiving rental assistance.

Then, under current state law, landlords may deny rental applications simply because a veteran receives rental assistance. Such denials are sometimes based on discriminatory assumptions.

The New Hampshire Senate is considering a bill already passed by the House that prohibits discrimination in rental housing against veterans in the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

The bill would allow low-income veterans with rental assistance greater choice in where to live.

In 2009 and 2010, we worked together with others to create a New Hampshire veterans’ legal advocacy project. Although this project has not yet received money from the state, one of its major goals is to develop coordinated advocacy for veterans on housing and homelessness issues.

Barring discrimination against veterans receiving rental assistance is a step in the right direction. Low-income veterans already face many challenges. Housing discrimination shouldn’t be one of them.

If you share our view, please call your state senator today and ask him or her to support House Bill 1409.

(Mary Morin is director of the New Hampshire Office of Veterans Services. Dan Feltes is director of the Housing Justice Project at New Hampshire Legal Assistance.)

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