Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin
Suffolk County boasts the highest population of veterans of any county in the State of New York, and, when these veterans return home, they have earned nothing less than our full support when transitioning back into civilian life. Our nation’s servicemembers put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms and liberties that make this country the greatest in the world, and the American dream that has made our nation the envy of so many, an integral part of which is the opportunity of homeownership.
While Suffolk County boasts the highest concentration of veterans, we also have some of the highest home prices in the country, with the median sale price in neighborhoods across Long Island ranging from $365,000 to $1 million. That’s why I ushered into law my Flexible VA Loan Guarantee Act, which expands veterans opportunity for homeownership by eliminating the loan limit the VA can guarantee and allow veterans to use the benefits they have earned to live and stay in the communities they fought so hard to defend. In fact, veterans have some of the lowest default and foreclosure rates in the nation.
After ensuring our servicemembers receive the loans they need to achieve the dream of homeownership, we must be with them every step of the way. Unfortunately, due to ambiguous language previously enacted into law, roughly 2,500 VA loans, worth $500 million, taken out in May and June of 2018, are not eligible to be pooled through the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae), which could significantly raise closing costs and rates for qualified veteran borrowers.
The ability to pool these mortgages, which are comparatively low risk and boast a very low default or delinquency rate, maintains important liquidity in the VA home loan market while helping to lower rates and increase cost savings for veteran borrowers. Furthermore, the inability to pool VA loans could cut off liquidity to the VA home loan market and stifle future refinancing opportunities.
Working across the aisle with Congressman David Scott of Georgia, I introduced the Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act to clarify this ambiguous language and restore lenders’ ability to pool VA home loans, increase market liquidity, preserve future refinancing opportunities, provide lower rates and most importantly pass along cost savings to our nation’s veterans and their families.
Ensuring certainty in the market and access to affordable mortgages for our nation’s veterans is the least we can do as they transition into civilian life, and, thankfully, this legislation has passed the House, the Senate, and is now heading to the President’s desk to become law.
Even just one veteran’s loan negatively impacted is one too many, which is why I’m committed to working with anyone and everyone on both sides of the aisle to ensure our servicemembers receive the benefits they have earned. Our nation’s veterans put their lives on the line to protect our opportunity to pursue the American dream, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that when they return home they have the opportunity to do the same.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York in the U.S. House of Representatives.