May 14, 2018

Operation Homeownership: VHDA and U.S. Military Celebrate 20th Year

“Operation Homeownership” is the name of VHDA’s partnership with the U.S. military to provide free homebuyer classes for active duty personnel, reservists, veterans, National Guard and Department of Defense personnel and their dependents. It launched in 1998 and is still going strong. The program helps service members stationed in Virginia and their families, as they consider the prospect of homeownership.

We celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Operation Homeownership with a ceremony in Norfolk on May 14, 2018. The event was held at Nauticus and attended by representatives from military command, service personnel and their families, program volunteers and elected officials.

Chief Petty Officer Mario Santiago, who is now retired from the U.S. Navy after a long career, spoke to the group about how Operation Homeownership changed his life 20 years ago. After attending VHDA’s first military homebuyer class, he used what he learned to qualify for a VHDA mortgage and buy his first home, where he and his wife still live today.

Of course, military life can be unpredictable. Less than two weeks after Santiago and his family moved into their new home, he was deployed on sea duty — but he was prepared! “There was one more important thing that came with owning a home which I considered to be the end goal of Operation Homeownership, and that is the peace of mind owning a home gives to every service member when they deploy,” said Santiago. “Knowing that your family will be safe and protected in their own home while you are deployed is a priceless feeling that comforts you until you come back home.”

It takes a lot of committed people to keep Operation Homeownership running smoothly. The 20-year celebration at Nauticus gave us the opportunity to thank those who have helped make this program a success. We awarded plaques and medals to our Housing Heroes (the people who have helped coordinate classes on military installations), and we recognized individuals from the private sector who have volunteered countless hours to help teach.

Operation Homeownership began as a partnership with the U.S. Department of the Navy. Over time, it grew to include more than 3,700 participants from all service branches who attended more than 300 classes to become educated homebuyers and responsible homeowners.

VHDA’s housing education team works on-site with military financial educators to teach topics that include Personal Finances, Credit and Credit Reporting, Working with a Lender, the Role of the Real Estate Agent, the Home Inspection, Loan Closing, and the benefits of developing a savings and spending plan.

Operation Homeownership also addresses the unique issues military homebuyers face. For example, the military lifestyle is typically transient, so service members must decide if buying a home is a good idea for them, and have a Plan B in place in the event they must relocate. Qualifying for loans may be complicated by calculations of a military housing allowance/allotment and any pending retirement income. Military homebuyers also need to learn about the VA loan program’s benefits and eligibility requirements.

Service members who attend Operation Homeownership classes have the opportunity to meet local real estate agents, lenders, home inspectors and other industry professionals in the classes. These professionals are able to provide valuable insights on neighborhoods, schools, recreation options and more. This is especially beneficial to recently deployed service members who are new to the area. Those who complete the class receive a Certificate of Completion and a copy of VHDA’s Homebuyer Handbook for future reference.

Operation Homeownership is just one of many programs VHDA offers the military. Other initiatives we sponsor or participate in include:
  • VA Home Loan Program. 
  • Granting Freedom program, providing grant money to help disabled service members and veterans make their homes more accessible. 
  •, a housing search site listing homes and apartments for rent throughout the state, including housing for veterans.
  • Free eBook on “How to be a Successful Renter.”
  • Cell Phones for Soldiers to provide free phone time to those on deployment.

Learn more about VHDA’s programs and loans for the military at

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