Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: Veteran-Related Legislation and Affordable Housing

senator joey hensley

   2020 Legislative Session – Veteran related legislation and Affordable Housing

   Legislation helps THDA low interest loan program serve first-time homebuyers and veterans – Legislation to increase the Tennessee Housing Development Authority’s (THDA) Great Choice Mortgage Program’s debt limit was approved this year. The program, which uses tax-exempt bonds to make low-interest mortgages to first-time homebuyers and veterans, was created to make homeownership more available and affordable for Tennesseans.

   The Tennessee General Assembly has increased the debt limit for the Great Choice Mortgage Program 12 times since 1973, recognizing the value of the program. In 2019, the Great Choice Mortgage Program issued 4,500 mortgages to new homebuyer and veterans. The program is expected to reach its $2.9 billion debt limit in early 2020. The legislation raises the maximum aggregate principal amount for which the agency may issue bonds to $4 billion.

  New law promotes affordable mixed-income rental housing – Legislation was approved authorizing housing authorities to take necessary actions to develop projects that promote affordable mixed-income rental housing by seeking financial assistance from private sources or state and federal programs. The new law clarifies that the alternative financing structures are legal in the context of affordable mixed income housing developments. This action provides financial partnerships with confidence that their investments in housing developments as part of a redevelopment project are protected.  

    The legislation clarifies and modernizes state law to reflect many new changes in the housing market.  One such change is that the financing of affordable housing has become increasingly reliant upon joint ventures and public-private partnerships. It also recognizes the diversity of affordable housing and the many ways in which it is financed. These changes will help housing authorities and development corporations feel more secure in their investments, especially when recruiting outside investors. Overall, the legislation helps housing authorities in Tennessee stretch available state and federal dollars by doing private partnerships and ensuring that such joint ventures are explicitly authorized under Tennessee law. 

   New law seeks to support veterans in crisis — Legislation seeking to support and protect Tennessee veterans was given final approval by the General Assembly. It requires the Department of Veterans Services (DVS) to provide training in suicide prevention to their employees who directly interact with veterans. The training is available free of charge to DVS through suicide prevention networks, with the goal of getting these veterans the help they need to save lives.

   Resolution declares June 12 as Women Veterans Day — A resolution paying recognition to women veterans was approved during the 2020 legislative session. It declares June 12, 2020 as Women Veterans Day. By memorializing the day, the resolution seeks to honor the sacrifices made by approximately 45,000 women veterans in Tennessee. “We owe an inexpressible debt to our female veterans, and today we ask that their spirit never be forgotten,” the resolution states.

   Legislation ensures World War II Veterans can have their military service indicated on their driver’s license — Legislation was approved by the General Assembly to ensure that World War II veterans can have their military service indicated on their driver’s license or photo identification card. Currently to receive the acknowledgement, veterans must provide a certified copy of their Department of Defense form 214 (DD 214) showing dates of service and that the applicant received an honorable discharge. This certification process, however, did not take into consideration World War II veterans whose service pre-dated implementation of the DD 214 paperwork.

   Effective July 1, the new law corrected this error by allowing honorably discharged veterans whose service pre-dates the form to utilize an AGO Form 53-55 or NAVPERS 553 as documentation, continuing the state’s long-held tradition of acknowledging and honoring our World War II veterans.