75 Years of VA Home Loans: ‘We Can Enjoy the American Dream’

It’s the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill, which created the VA home loan program—an avenue bringing military business your way.
NAR President John Smaby presenting award

© National Association of REALTORS®

NAR President John Smaby, middle, presents a plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ GI Bill to Paul Lawrence, the VA’s undersecretary of benefits, left, and Jeffrey London, executive director of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service.

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill, which provides financial resources to veterans who aspire to become homeowners—and serves as an avenue bringing military business your way. The milestone comes at a symbolic time, as June is National Homeownership Month. On Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs gathered a group of more than 100 industry stakeholders and government officials to commemorate the milestone.

Since becoming law in 1944, the GI Bill’s VA Home Loan Guaranty Program has given millions of American service members access to affordable mortgages and other home-purchase assistance. It’s an important program real estate professionals can refer prospective clients to in order to prepare for and begin the homebuying process.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said at Wednesday’s event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that the VA home loan program is a shining example of HUD's commitment to bring the American dream of homeownership to more Americans. “The GI Bill has positively impacted millions of men and women through education, medical funding, and home loans,” Carson said. “It is through this area that HUD is proud to have made such a profound impact in the lives of our nation’s veterans. And while the tremendous debt we owe to our brothers and sisters in arms may never be fully repaid, we can and will do everything in our power to leverage the GI Bill and HUD’s programs to provide affordable housing for all Americans.”

Carson also noted that veteran homelessness has recently been on the decline, with a 5.4% drop in the last year and national figures cut in half since 2010, according to government data. “During the month of June, which has been designated by the president as National Homeownership Month, we are reminded that homes are not simply physical structures, but they are social, cultural, and economic engines,” Carson said. “They are the place where memories are made, where people feel safe and confident. They’re where families are raised and communities are interconnected.”

At the same time as the GI Bill’s anniversary, the VA loan program celebrated backing the 24 millionth home loan in its history. The recipient of the loan, Army Sgt. 1st Class William Kopf, who applied for the benefit for the third time, is facilitating a cross-country move from Utah to Pennsylvania because of service requirements. Marilou Saar and Joni McKenna, sales associates with Coldwell Banker Town & Country Properties who are helping Kopf in his home search, were in attendance at Wednesday’s event.

“When you’re deployed, you’re not thinking about your next life steps. You’re not worried about a loan. You’re not worried about a home. You’re worried about that day’s mission and the wellbeing of the troops,” Kopf said. “But when you are [back home] and you’re trying to make that transition to the next part of your life, that’s where the VA comes in—and that’s where you need them the most. Knowing the VA has our back and that we can enjoy the American dream is absolutely something special, and it’s been a relief to my family.”

Kopf noted that the “major” benefit of VA loans for most veterans is that they do not require a down payment. The program also limits closing costs and prohibits the imposition of mortgage insurance. The VA currently operates more than 3 million active loans, with 2,000 guaranteed through this program every day. In 2018, VA-purchased loans increased for the seventh straight year, marking an all-time high. “This was about putting down roots in our new community and became so much more,” Kopf said. “To be a small part of this program’s incredible history is really special.”

The National Association of REALTORS® served as a host of Wednesday’s event. NAR President John Smaby addressed the group, reflecting on one of the first homes he sold when he began his real estate career more than 40 years ago. The buyer in that transaction was a Vietnam War veteran who was using the VA loan program. “As we stand here and think about what 75 years of the VA loan means to Americans, I am reminded of that very special day,” Smaby said. “It is also unbelievable what this bill does for our economy and what it means to REALTORS® across the country. There is no greater day for the agents in my office than when we see a veteran come through our doors after buying a home.”

GI Bill Offers Path for Military Vets Into Commercial Real Estate