Military Housing, Not Your Old Base Housing

Privatization yields dramatic improvements for housing inside the gate

By Melissa Renahan, Writer and Military Spouse

Santa Fe Housing Before

Santa Fe Military Housing Before

On-base housing used to be something that was driven by need and rarely by want; the houses were run-down, out dated and not necessarily competitive with the real estate and rental market outside the gates. However, in 1996, Congress established the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) to help the issue. The MHPI allows private developers to own 51 percent and partner (over a 50 year lease period) with military installations to build, own and operate the family housing on that base.

“In my opinion, we offer better things than outside the gates,” said Cindy Gersch, Vice President and Director of Marketing, Corporate Affairs for Lend Lease, which has partnerships with 21 installations across all the branches. “The biggest reason people choose to live on base is the camaraderie. We build communities, not just homes.”

Military Housing Santa Fe Housing After

Santa Fe Military Housing After

Gersch has a point; these military housing areas are intended to be a community, so it is really about the total package they offer, besides the updated and sometimes brand new construction. That includes community centers, skateboard parks, splash parks, playgrounds and trails, as well as community managers that are on site to do everything from organize events to handle maintenance concerns, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a safe, secure environment.

“On heavily deployed installations like Ft Hood, Ft Drum or Ft Campbell, we also work to help the spouses and family members who are left at home,” she explained. “We’ll have extra events or help them with things that might not occur to a ‘typical landlord’ like putting up a Christmas tree or replacing out of reach lights in the house.”

All told, Lend Lease is responsible for 40,000 homes nationwide, plus 192 apartments and they are on the verge of getting involved with the privatization of some on-base Army lodging. Most recently they built the housing at Schriever Air Force Base from the ground up, as there had been nothing there prior.

“Our occupancy rates have been good so far, though it does fluctuate – but we have a good product,” Gersch concluded.

A good product is what Ivan Bolden, Chief of Public Private Initiatives for the Army, strives for as well.

“To appreciate where we are now, you have to look back to where we began,” said Bolden, who served 27 years in the Army himself before moving into a civilian job ten years ago. “When I was in, I admit, I didn’t want to live on base…but things have really changed.”

Bolden’s office, which is responsible for the asset management close to 86,000 homes, is focused on building larger, more energy-efficient homes, though they also spend time creating a community. For example, at bases where there is a large wounded warrior population, they have gone the extra mile to make the playgrounds handicapped accessible so that those Servicemembers can still take their kids to the park.

“One of the largest issues is that people want to build some equity and purchase a house,” he explained. “However, in today’s housing market, more people are opting to live on-base.”

Despite all of the work that has been done so far, Bolden is quick to point out that the partnerships are all a work in progress and that unfortunately, some installations have been had more work done than others. Furthermore, not everyone will get a new home or even a renovated home initially.

‚ÄúIt’s important to look at how far we’ve come in 10 years. The majority of housing is significantly better. With the decrease in BAH, many of the Privatization Partners are working with less money. We are all doing our best to increase quality of life for our Armed Forces. Within the next five years, everyone {sic: in the Army} should have a renovated home, if not be in a new home,‚Äù Bolden stated.

There are many ways to find the housing for your base. Whether you are PCSing, deploying and wanting safer housing or just want to move on-base, here are resources for you:

Military Homes Today

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