How is the Army Working to Improve Housing Conditions?

Military housing
This panel from CBS News shows the range of deplorable conditions suffered by service members and their families in on-post housing.

Military installations across the U.S. are under fire as more confirmed reports sweep in describing the hazardous conditions of onsite housing for single service members in the barracks as well as family housing structures for those married service members with dependents.

A total of 87,000 structures spread across more than 40 installations throughout the U.S. have been reported with critical structural issues ranging from faulty wiring, peeling paint from the walls, insect infestations, pesky rodents, as well as mold scouring these run-down housing units. 

While this news broke due to an investigation series by Reuters in 2018, reports began pouring in of families becoming ill as a direct result from severe mold growth in properties that were labeled as new construction housing, as well as children with significant lead poisoning from living in older housing structures.

 

Army housing
Army personnel works to remove lead paint from houses on Ft. Benning. Credit: Reuters.

Installation Chain of Command at posts such as Virginia’s Fort Eustis, and South Carolina’s Fort Jackson hold steadfast in their claim that these issues are solely managed by private contacting partnerships, and that the Army is not responsible for the condition of the housing structures that service members reside in. Chain of Command at these Army posts, though, have been willing to hold community meetings to hear the concerns from dependents as well as active duty members of service as a way to better understand the severity of their living conditions.

 

A firsthand account

From 2016 to 2018, Kendra Dugger, an Army wife from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, recalls the grave living situation that she and her spouse endured while being housed in a complex managed by JBLM.

“Shortly after moving in the house began to fall apart rapidly,” Dugger said, recalling the first of many issues she and her family experienced while living in on-post housing. 

“The water was leaking into the wall and had rotted out about a foot of the wall from the bathtub.”

The water leak took two weeks for JBLM maintenance to follow up on, followed by another four weeks until the issue was “resolved.” Only for the leak to begin again shortly after it had been “fixed,” and then subsequently had to be repaired an additional three times during the Dugger’s residency.

The result? Mold had settled into the walls, as well as the bathtub due to the lengthy time the property managers took to resolve the leak.

Dugger and her family contacted maintenance multiple times for various other issues in their home, as well. Mold began forming in rooms that were vacant, the dishwasher leaked profusely, and their family pet was getting ill due to unsafe water, leaving their loving dog with a lifelong compromised immune system.

“We ended up buying water when people started getting sicker and sicker from the water on post,” Dugger commented.

She recommended that no one, given the choice, should consider living in any on-post housing maintained by JBLM. 

 

Army housing
Black mold in military housing. Credit: Gibbs Law Group.

Upon the scandal of service members and their families living in mold-ridden, rodent and insect infested homes breaking through headlines across the country, outrage poured out from all sides, and understandably so. Housing on a military installation, one would assume, would replicate the highest of standards that the Army holds their service members to.

 

What changes can we expect to see?

After hearing and seeing reports and speaking with countless military families, the Army has begun a documented process to ensure that through these privately-operated housing companies, tenants do retain a Bill of Rights.

In the document, it states that upon the notice of an issue with the residential home, if it is not addressed and corrected within a timely manner, the tenant then can withhold payment for rent until issues have been resolved. 

Among further changes that the Army is working to approve, is that it is required from each private housing management company to set up an online tracking system that would alert management when a claim has been made and needs to be addressed, and another notice sent out when the issue is resolved.

It’s uncertain how long the process will be as the housing units of all Army posts are reviewed, issues eradicated and standards from Command are raised and met by the private housing agencies across the nation.

 

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