DOD Has Multiple Tools to Address Housing Shortfall
The services have a variety of approaches they are using — or plan to — to tackle housing deficits at growth installations, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The tools are meant to help service members and their families obtain housing either on base or in the surrounding community. The congressional watchdog agency found that a shortfall exists at 19 of 26 mission growth installations.
Analysts interviewed housing officials at five growth sites — Cannon Air Force Base, N.M; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. Each of the installations is developing plans to negotiate with its housing privatization partners to increase the supply of adequate housing on base. At Bliss, for example, the privatization partner has agreed to build an additional 800 to 1,000 homes to address the deficit, GAO stated.
Installation-community collaboration also is making a dent in the problem. Growth management organizations, funded by the Office of Economic Adjustment, have sponsored studies to identify gaps in local infrastructure, such as housing, and have provided a forum for community and base officials to discuss challenges related to housing. The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, for example, will host an event to bring together installation officials, developers, financiers, and state and local leaders to encourage the construction of housing outside the installation.
Use of the Military Family Housing Leasing program — commonly referred to as the Section 801 housing program — has expired or is expected to expire at four of the installations GAO reviewed. Existing contracts at Cannon, however, may be extended to meet the increased housing demand. The program, considered a forerunner to the housing privatization initiative, allows the services to contract with developers to build new rental housing on or near installations.
Forts Drum and Bliss are relying on the domestic leasing program as a bridging strategy to provide temporary housing for military families until their host communities can respond to the increased demand for housing, according to the report. The military pays rent and other housing costs of privately owned housing that is assigned to military families as government quarters, under this program.
Those two posts also have been allowed to extend use of the temporary lodging expense allowance from 10 days to 60 days. The program partially offsets expenses when a service member occupies temporary quarters while moving to a new duty station.