DOD Seeks Ways to Improve Family Housing Initiative

Feb. 8, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone ,
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Because the health, safety and welfare of service members is always a top priority for the Defense Department, DOD officials are looking for ways to improve the Military Privatization Housing Initiative that was established in the 1990s, a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

When DOD recognized a need to improve housing conditions on its installations 25 years ago, Heather Babb said, it sought ways to leverage the expertise of private-sector partners.

“The department needed to improve its on-base housing to address retention, recruitment and quality-of-life concerns,” Babb said.

Since Congress authorized the MPHI in 1996, DOD has privatized 99 percent of its family housing inventory in the U.S. -- more than 200,000 units at about 150 installations.

MHPI partners have constructed nearly 80,000 new housing units and performed major renovations to more than 50,000 additional housing units, Babb said, and they also have made cosmetic improvements and basic repairs to the remaining housing.

Faster Transformation

“The program transformed the quality of on-base housing much faster than traditional military construction could have,” she added.

Housing privatization also provides for long-term reinvestment, the Pentagon spokeswoman noted. Residents who choose to live in privatized housing sign a lease and pay rent to the project, just as they would rent housing off-base.

Privatization projects, through 50-year deals, use rental income to pay project expenses such as property management and taxes and to pay off project debt that financed housing redevelopment. Funds are also set aside for future redevelopment to keep the homes in good condition for residents 10 to 20 years from now and beyond, Babb explained.

Continued Active Management

Still, she said, there is room for improvement, and that’s why working with privatized housing partners to address reports of unhealthy living conditions at any DOD installation is a top priority for Robert McMahon, assistant secretary of defense for sustainment, who provides programmatic oversight of DOD’s housing privatization program.

“We want to ensure that our installations provide safe, quality housing to military families,” McMahon said. “The privatized program resulted in great long-term improvements in base housing, and we must continue to actively manage this program to ensure its long-term success. If there are problems, we will address them.”

McMahon, along with counterparts from the military departments, recently met with executives representing each of the privatized housing partners to look for ways to improve the initiative and better ensure residents have a positive living experience.

“We are committed to working together to take care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines -- and, equally important, their families,” he said.

At the meeting, McMahon outlined a common vision between DOD and privatized housing partners to provide safe, high-quality and affordable housing where military members and their families will want, and choose, to live.

“We recruit the individual, and we retain the family,” he said. “Where we can do better, we have a responsibility to do so.”