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The Department of Veterans Affairs has several programs to help eligible service members, veterans, Guard/Reserve members, and certain unmarried surviving spouses obtain homes, refinance existing loans, and avoid foreclosure/homelessness. Eligibility requirements differ from program to program and can be different for active, veteran, or Guard/Reserve. These programs include loan guarantees as well as grants and other assistance. State and some local agencies also have programs and services that can help.

The state of New Jersey offers a Property Tax Exemption and Deduction to veterans who served during specific wartime periods.   Both require that the veteran own and occupy the dwelling, be a US citizen, resident of New Jersey, and be honorably discharged or released under honorable conditions. The Deduction is $250 annually. Application should be made to the local tax assessor with the deed and DD-214 presented with the application. To qualify for the Exemption, the veteran must have died in active service or been rated 100% permanent service-connected by the VA, and the rating cannot be as a result of hospitalization, surgery, or recuperation. The VA must also provide a Property Tax Exemption Letter which can be requested by calling VA at 800-827-1000. Surviving spouses can also qualify for these benefits. Note: Where a co-op is the owned dwelling, the co-op manager must complete additional forms for submission to the tax assessor.

HOME LOANS
The most common of these is the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. VA does not make loans – it guarantees loans made by private sector lenders up to an amount VA would pay that lender if the loan should go to foreclosure. You do not have to be a first time home buyer. Potential borrowers must have suitable credit, sufficient income, obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (VA document certifying eligibility), meet the service requirements, and intend to live in the home. For questions about eligibility, contact the Eligibility Center at 888-768-2132 or go to https://iris.va.gov, click on “Ask a Question” and follow the prompts. Check service requirements at http://www.benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/purchaseco_eligibility.asp.

VA guaranteed loans require no downpayment and have no maximum amount, but the actual maximum amount guaranteed by VA is set annually by law and can vary depending on the size of the loan and location of the property. On loans up to $45,000, VA will guarantee 50% of the loan amount; between $45,000 and $56,250, the guaranty is $22,500; between $56,250 and $144,000, it’s 40% of the loan amount with a maximum of $36,000; and for loans over $144,000, VA will guarantee up to a maximum amount of 25% of the county loan limit ($978,750 in northern NJ).

VA guaranteed loans may be used for purchase or construction of a home, improvements to a home occupied by a veteran, purchase of a manufactured home, refinancing an existing home loan, or installation of solar or other energy efficient improvements. Loans are obtained through the usual lending institutions and may be either fixed or adjustable rate.

An appraisal by a VA-assigned appraiser is required for any loan. This is NOT an inspection of the property and does not mean the home is free of defects – it is only an estimate of the value of the property. Typically, the lender will request the appraisal through VA systems and the borrower pays for the appraisal according to a VA approved fee schedule. A thorough inspection of the property by a reputable firm is recommended but not required.

For purchase home loans, payment in cash is required on all closing costs, including discount points charged by the lender, title search and recording fees, surveys, insurance premiums, and prepaid taxes. These may not be included in the loan.

Borrowers must pay VA a funding fee which may be paid in cash or included in the loan. This reduces the cost to taxpayers in consideration for VA guaranteed loans requiring no down payment and no monthly mortgage insurance (PMI). An estimate can be found at Loan Fees. Exemptions are borrowers receiving disability compensation, those eligible (rated) to receive disability compensation, and unmarried surviving spouses receiving dependency and indemnity compensation.

Click the image for VA Loan Guide information.

Veterans Home Loans

VA Loan Guide
The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) offers low interest rate mortgages to provide veterans and their families with increased buying power and a savings in interest over the life of the loan. Loans are available to NJ residents for: first time and urban home buyers, police and firefighters, purchase and rehabilitation mortgages, and reverse mortgages for seniors (62 and over). There are approximately 55 participating HMFA lenders with hundreds of locations throughout the state. Applicants must be eligible for a VA guaranteed home loan. Contact the HMFA at 800-654-6873. The office is located at 637 South Clinton Avenue, PO Box 18550, Trenton, 08650-2085.

Discrimination in housing is illegal under both federal and state law. To file a complaint with the Federal government contact: Fair Housing Enforcement Center, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 3532, New York, NY 10278-0068. 800-496-4294 or 212-542-7519. Or you can file a complaint online at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/complaints_home. For New Jersey, there is a Fair Housing Information Hotline: 800-390-4845. For information or filing a complaint you can contact the state Department of Law and Public Safety – Division on Civil Rights. The Newark Regional Office address is 31 Clinton Street, PO Box 46001, Newark 07102. 973-648-2700. The Paterson Regional Office is located at 100 Hamilton Plaza, Paterson 07501. 973-977-4500.

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REFINANCING, ASSUMING LOANS
The VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) lowers your interest rate by refinancing your existing VA home loan. By obtaining a lower interest rate, your monthly mortgage payment should decrease. If you are refinancing an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) into a fixed rate mortgage, note that the interest rate may increase. There is no Certificate of Eligibility, appraisal, or credit underwriting package required and all costs may be included in the new loan. You may NOT receive any cash proceeds from this type loan. No loan other than the existing VA loan may be paid from the proceeds of an IRRL loan. Additionally, you need only certify that you previously occupied the home. VA suggests contacting several lenders as terms and rates may vary. http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/irrrl.asp

Veterans with conventional home loans have new options for refinancing to a VA guaranteed home loan. VA’s Cash-Out Refinance Loan is for homeowners who want to take cash out of your home equity to take care of concerns like paying off debt, funding school, or making home improvements. The Cash-Out Refinance Loan can also be used to refinance a non-VA loan into a VA loan. VA will guarantee loans up to 100% of the value of your home. http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/purchasecashout.asp

 If you want to assume a loan or allow someone to take over your loan, it is strongly recommended that you contact the VA Regional Loan Center (800-729-5772). It is located at 1240 East Ninth Street, Cleveland, OH 44199. You should also be aware that if your existing VA loan closed on or after March 1, 1988, it is unlawful to allow someone to take over your loan without the prior approval of VA and your lender.

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DELINQUENCIES, DEFAULTS
Sometimes circumstances make it difficult for veteran homeowners to make loan payments on time. Those on active duty and who entered into a mortgage prior to the beginning of the current period of active service can qualify for relief under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. SCRA may provide a lower interest rate during military service and for one year after service ends. It can also prevent foreclosure or eviction for up to nine months from period of service.

When a VA guaranteed loan becomes delinquent and the servicer is unable to help the veteran, VA may provide supplemental servicing assistance to help cure the default. VA can take an active role in interceding with the mortgage servicer to avoid foreclosure. Contact a VA Regional Loan Center at 877-827-3702 or visit www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/. VA does not have the legal authority to interfere on a borrower’s behalf for non-VA guaranteed home loans, but can offer the veteran advice and guidance.

 If you are having or expecting to have trouble making payments, please go to the VA website at http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/resources_payments.asp for more information on how to handle your situation.

 Catholic Charities participates in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program for very low income veteran families who are at risk. It is geared toward helping families regain stability in permanent housing. Contact them at 973-220-5749 or the 24 hour confidential helpline at 855-767-8387. They can help with up to three months back rent or finding new housing.

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PREVENTING HOMELESSNESS
Veterans who may be facing homelessness as a result of losing their homes can call 877-424-3838 to receive assistance. You can connect 24/7 with trained VA people who will assess your needs. Or go to http://www.va.gov/homeless/for_homeless_veterans.asp. This webpage contains information on VA’s Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program (HVSEP), both of which are geared toward getting veterans back into the workforce and preventing homelessness. Or you can chat online at Homeless Veterans Chat.   IMPORTANT: You do not need to be registered with VA to use either service. Note also that the homeless veteran chat site automatically collects information about how you connected but does not collect information that will identify you personally.

 The National Coalition of Homeless Veterans can offer immediate help and can be reached at 800-838-4357 or 877-424-3838 for 24/7 assistance. There is more information at: http://nchv.org/index.php/help/help/immediate_help/. Their local representative is the Bergen County Division of Veterans Services, One Bergen County Plaza, 2nd Floor, Hackensack 07601. 201-336-6325. http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/bcdhs/divisions/veteran.htm

The Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center, located at 120 South River Street, Hackensack, 07601 provides temporary shelter while helping to place homeless people in permanent housing. 201-336-6475. http://www.habcnj.org/HHH.pdf

The American Legion Homeless Veterans Taskforce works to ensure local services and resources are available to homeless veterans and their families. The Task Force, which has chairpersons in each department, collaborates with government agencies, homeless service providers and veterans service organizations to develop and implement initiatives that will help homeless veterans.   The task Force can provide direct aid to veterans and their families who reach out to them. A veteran who is homeless or facing possible homelessness can contact a chairperson, who will provide guidance and assistance to the veteran and his or her family. http://www.legion.org/homelessveterans/taskforce

The Homelessness Prevention Program can be reached toll-free at 866-889-6270. The program provides limited financial assistance to low and moderate income tenants and homeowners in imminent danger of eviction or foreclosure due to temporary financial problems beyond their control.

Welcome Home Vets of New Jersey is a volunteer non-profit participating in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program.  Their Community Hope and Hope for Veterans® program will provide case management services to assist veterans and their families in securing housing and developing a housing stability plan to avert or overcome homelessness. Veterans and social service providers can access their referral hotline with NJ 211 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The organization serves veterans and veteran families in the following New Jersey Counties:   Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren.

Who Qualifies:
Low-income single veterans or veteran families who are currently residing in permanent housing and at risk of becoming homeless, OR are currently homeless or recently exited permanent housing and are scheduled or able to become a resident of permanent housing within 90 days.  For example, a veteran living in a shelter, on the street or in temporary housing with an apartment identified.

Social Service Assistance:  Case management services may include:  Housing counseling/housing search, securing utilities, mediation with property owners, financial budgeting, employment assistance and navigation of eligible benefits and services.

Financial Assistance Services:  Temporary financial assistance may be available to eligible veterans including rental assistance, utility payments, security payments, moving costs, childcare and transportation expenses.

Call their Referral Hotline at 1-855-483-8466

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Who Qualifies:

Low-income single veterans or veteran families who are currently residing in permanent housing and at risk of becoming homeless, OR are currently homeless or recently exited permanent housing and are scheduled or able to become a resident of permanent housing within 90 days.  For example, a veteran living in a shelter, on the street or in temporary housing with an apartment identified.

Social Service Assistance:  Case management services may include: Housing counseling/housing search, securing utilities, mediation with property owners, financial budgeting, employment assistance and navigation of eligible benefits and services.

Financial Assistance Services:  Temporary financial assistance may be available to eligible veterans including rental assistance, utility payments, security payments, moving costs, childcare and transportation expenses.

Call their Referral Hotline at 1-855-483-8466

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