Washington—The national defense funding bill passed by the Senate includes reforms authored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to address problems at contractor-provided military housing.
The reforms are key provisions of the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, legislation introduced by the senators in April after a Reuters investigation found hazardous and unhealthy living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States. The investigation found service members and their families living in homes with persistent mold blooms, water leaks and rodent and insect infestations.
“Military families make tremendous sacrifices for our country, but they shouldn’t be asked to sacrifice their health and safety at home,” Senator Feinstein said. “Protections available to most tenants aren’t available to service members living in contractor-provider military housing. This has forced service members and their families to live in unacceptable and sometimes dangerous conditions with little or no recourse. We’re closer to making sure that changes.”
The Reuters investigation and military advocacy groups report that the companies that operate military housing are often non-responsive, provide only superficial fixes or blame the service member for the problems. In some instances, service members have been charged fees associated with the remediation of military housing, including fees for leaving homes with persistent hazards.
A recent survey conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network showed that more than 55 percent of respondents had a negative or very negative experience with privatized military housing.
Key reforms include:
- Withholding basic allowance for housing payments to private housing contractors if a service member and contractor are in dispute over housing conditions.
- Withholding incentive fees to contractors if they fail to remedy health or environmental hazards.
- Requiring contractors to pay for relocations costs if a service member must temporarily leave their home due to an environmental or health hazard.
- Requiring contractors to provide service members access to their electronic work order systems so that tenants can track the progress of their requests.
- Requiring the development of common credentials across the military for health and safety inspectors.