By Chuck N. Baker
(Nevada) — Military housing on some military installations is coming under scrutiny after complaints began surfacing that some of the housing contains mold, vermin, poor water quality and other unfavorable living conditions.
Most bases have modern living quarters, including Nellis AFB outside of Las Vegas. But some other locales have not been so fortunate and critics point out military personnel and their families should be entitled to safe and secure base housing.
The Navy and Marine Corps in particular have some quarters that former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Phyllis Bayer said are substandard. Testifying before Congress, she told the Armed Services Committee that some base housing did contain major problems. Prior to her recently resigning from her position to pursue other activities, she added that military leaders have recently been auditing homes of service members and are committed to repairing, and/or fixing any substandard findings.
Some of the responsibilities for the Navy’s Assistant Secretary include oversight and policy for Navy and Marines Corps facilities, military construction and safety and occupational help. A search is currently underway to locate a qualified candidate for the position.
Nellis AFB is unique in that its housing is privatized. Two-, three- and four-bedroom homes are offered in five neighborhoods. Hunt Military Communities is one company that provides such housing for Nellis and other bases around the nation. A Hunt promotional video offers positive information from Nellis military residents. The company states that it works under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative that has been in force since 1996. A Hunt spokesman said that housing built on military installations is a critical component for recruiting, retention and readiness and offers a high quality of life for all branches of the armed forces.
Nellis Airman Brian Daube resides in a privatized home and said, “I travel quite a bit. So being away from home, knowing that [my family] is in a safe place, having like-minded people that are all in the military together, there’s a sense that everybody is looking out for everybody else.”
Daube notes the quality of housing that Hunt has put together is pretty amazing. He added, “Airmen up to officers can get a quality house. I also know that they are continuing to try and improve the housing here, which is really beneficial.”
Nellis Airman Staff Sergeant Jonathan Warren also sang the praises of his base home. He said, “When you look at the housing market that’s out there, it’s very difficult. The cost of living is expensive. So with the price of a home that I have here, it removes that financial dilemma that one goes through when they’re home shopping.”
Colonel Adam W. Butler, garrison commander at Fort Lee, Virginia, is shown saying that prior to privatization, the military decided that it should focus on its military objectives and let building experts develop housing platforms.
All military services under the auspices of the Department of Defense are in the process of preparing a Joint Tenant Bill of Rights in an effort to ensure service members and their families reside in quality homes. The document is also intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing, with additional oversight by the military. The Tenant Bill of Rights will also enforce renegotiated leases with private housing companies.
While the document covers several areas of tenant rights, one of the sections is entitled “Prompt Repairs.” It states residents have the right to prompt and professional repairs. If the repairs are such that they affect immediate life, safety and health issues, residents have the right to be promptly relocated into other housing at no cost to them until the work is completed.
A Department of Defense spokesman said “The Military Housing Privatization Initiative has truly changed the landscape of military housing, and the lives of service members and their families for the better. It’s about much more than building homes. It’s about building communities.”