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Privatization Brings Homes, Not Housing to Army Installation

By Melina Rodriguez
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va., Oct. 3, 2007 – Army Secretary Pete Geren visited homes on Fort Belvoir, Va., today and talked with Army families about the privatized housing initiative on the installation.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Secretary Pete Geren, left, meets with Fort Belvoir residents Staff Sgt. Matthew Valliel and his wife Rachel, right. U.S. Army photo by Marny Malin
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"In order to have a healthy Army, we've got to have healthy soldiers, and we have to have a healthy Army family, as well," Geren said. "If you ask a soldier, ask anyone, about what goes into their thinking about what makes a good quality of life … it would be housing, the home they live in, the neighborhood they live in. It's no different if you're a soldier, a spouse or if you're a private citizen."

In addition to Army soldiers, members of other military services in the Military District of Washington also reside in Fort Belvoir housing.

In December 2003, the Residential Communities Initiative's initial development period began on Fort Belvoir when existing homes were turned over to a private housing development company. The company will soon complete its 1,000th home on Fort Belvoir, and will eventually demolish and replace a total of 1,630 homes and renovate 170 homes. When construction is complete, the company will manage 2,070 Fort Belvoir homes.

So far, 36 military installations have transferred to privatized housing, with 78,000 homes under private management. Residential community intiative projects have built 11,000 new homes and renovated 10,000 homes with a goal of eventually managing nearly 90,000 homes, said Geren.

Geren said the Army has spent more than $1 billion on the initiative.

"Through this RCI initiative, we've been helping to leverage government assets, $1 billion worth of government assets, and invest $10 billion in quality of life for our soldiers and our families."

Geren discussed upcoming initiatives and the recently approved $100 million in funding for more than 50 existing morale, welfare and recreation programs and services affected by the Army's current deployment cycles.

Fort Belvoir programs will receive $135,000 of the recently approved funding for two new full-time positions at Army Community Service.

Over the next five years, more funds will be designated for family and Soldier support programs and services.

"RCI, and more importantly the privatized housing initiative, where you're standing now, and the houses around you are what right looks like and a very important aspect of our military to continue to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and families," said Installation Commander Col. Brian Lauritzen. "But, it is one of many initiatives."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wiggins and his wife Coretta attended the event and discussed their home in Lewis Village, where they've lived for more than a year. They have a detached three-bedroom home with a two-car garage.

"This is more of a community, not Army housing," said Coretta, who also grew up as an Army child. "You can see the difference."

"As long as my family is happy, it makes it easier for me to go to work," said Mark, a chaplain's assistant for the Army Reserve’s Military Intelligence Readiness Command.

Sgt. Tony and Robyn Persina came to Belvoir on a compassionate reassignment for one of their two children. They have lived in Herryford Village for two years in an Americans with Disabilities Act home. The single-level home has three bedrooms, with oversized doors and hallways.

"Your house isn't just a house, it's a home," said Tony. "It's a lot more comfortable, our families visit all the time."

Five percent of the new homes built at Belvoir are approved under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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