Military housing helps active service members access affordable housing for themselves and their family members. Often, military housing is seen as the best option for the families of service members who may be moving to an entirely new country or region. At its best, military housing gives military members and their families peace of mind on deployment that they need not worry about their place of living. Unfortunately, the quality of base housing is in poor condition and has not met expectations of service-members or the military itself. In the mid-90s, The Department of Defense contracted to outside, private housing companies in order to give companies with expertise responsibility for service member housing. At first, privatization was successful with noticeable improvements in housing quality—however, adequate incentives were not in place to prevent the contractors from taking advantage of their long-term, fifty-year contracts. These private housing contractors began to fail to respond to service member complaints or provide proper maintenance on the housing facilities. Ultimately, this led to many reports that military housing fell below minimum housing standards. Some investigations found toxic lead contamination while other investigations found dangerous levels of mold. The Center for Law and Military Policy advocates for greater oversight of these private housing contractors and better alignment of incentives to promote regular upkeep of military housing.
The CLMP Housing Division worked with the families who testified on Capital Hill in February 2019 and submitted the following policy recommendations to Congress:
1. A reduced contract term between the DoD and each housing private company—currently, contracts run for 50 years. Reducing these long terms incentivizes housing companies to complete reporting requirements, encourages current contractors to do a good job, and allows for the best housing company to be given contracts.
2. Active duty members should be surveyed regarding housing quality and the results should be reported through their commands. Additionally, financial and quality reporting requirements on private contractors should be made more stringent. Discrepancies in reporting between service member reporting and housing contractor reporting should be prompt investigations in housing conditions and may be grounds for revisiting the contract.
3. A uniform lease should be created by the DoD to allow military families predictability in the terms of their leases. A uniform lease will provide more clarity on benefits and requirements of military housing, more accountability on behalf of the housing companies, and prevent tenants from being surprised by any terms.
4. Military families should receive their lease no later than 15 days prior to their move-in date.
5. Military families should be able to inspect their home no later than 15 days prior to their move-in date.
6. Create a new administrative process which allows military families to withhold their basic housing allowance in any instance that a housing problem is not resolved within 3 attempts.
7. Military families should be advised that they are entitled to all of the legal protections for tenants in the State in which they live and under applicable federal laws such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
8. A uniform military family tenant’s bill of rights should be included as an addendum to each lease executed by the housing companies.
9. Self-conducted satisfaction surveys by housing contractors should not be linked to payment under the contract. This has only incentivized non-disclosure of pervasive housing issues to ensure receipt of payment.
10. Housing companies should not be able to unilaterally close a maintenance ticket. In order to be closed, a ticket should require the sign-off of tenants as well as housing maintenance staff.
11. The DoD should separately contract housing maintenance staff to ensure that the staff are unbiased in their assessments of whether a problem has been resolved.
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