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Privatized Military Housing Under Fire
By Nancy E. Sheppard

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If you were to drive through the off-base housing for Langley Air Force Base, located off of Big Bethel Road in York County, it would initially appear to be a night-andday difference from the old, military-built housing that used to exist on the same property. The different exterior styles of the homes, plentiful, brightly-painted playgrounds, and cheerful children playing in their yards gives an appearance of a family-friendly, safe, healthful environment for military families. But if you were to scratch just a little beneath the surface, you would discover a far different story.

Like all military housing Private Partnership Venture ("PPV”), Hunt Military Communities (who manages the housing) has come under fire by not only their tenants, but Congress, for providing substandard housing, unhealthful living conditions, and inadequate safety for their residents.

For years, the PPV programs have been criticized for large issues in their managed housing like extreme amounts of toxic mold, vermin, inadequate maintenance support, and shotty workmanship in the homes at the expense of the residents. In turn, residents have little choice due to the strong-armed tactics of housing companies to drain every cent out of them while charging "rent” in arrears, leaving families unable to adequately save enough money to move off-base (to include a security deposit on a new, "intown” home). The average E-4 (with dependents) stationed at Langley Air Force Base makes $1,437 per month in Base Allowance for Housing ("BAH”). The housing company charges at the end of each month not only the entirety of the E- 4’s BAH, but also an additional cost for utility usage (which is not clearly documented on bills sent to residents through a third-party). Service members and their families have been pigeonholed into this difficult housing situation, unable to have their complaints heard beyond the arm of their individual commands.

However, after many years of fighting the system, residents have finally caught the ear of the federal government, who, in turn in truly listening.

On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines unveiled a proposal for a "Tenant Bill of Rights” for residents living in military housing. Among the many contingencies in this new bill, the military would have the right to renegotiate contracts with the private real estate companies and brokers (many of these contracts currently existing under terms of 50 years) to push for a greater standard of living for service members. It will also assert new controls the military has over landlords operating base housing, therefore, ensuring that their service members and dependents are living in safe, healthful environments. The residents would also have greater access to "housing advocates” and to move into "suitable lodging” at no cost if the company fails to provide requested repairs.

This bill is just the first on a long road to give military families housing that both the military and residents feel would be worth the money the pay to live in it. In the meantimes, bases and commands are interviewing service members for candid responses regarding their particular housing situations and coming out to the homes to inspect the claims of their service member.

If you currently live in base housing, please encourage your service member to talk to their command regarding any issues you have been facing.


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