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Bill Introduced To Tackle Problems With Privately-Run Military Housing

Sign at Camp Pendleton shows the options for private housing.

Credit: Defense of Department

Above: Sign at Camp Pendleton shows the options for private housing.

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, introduced a bill to deal with complaints raised by families living in private military housing.

Families around the country have complained about the condition of military housing and the private companies that operate the facilities. The non-profit Military Family Advisory Network ran an online survey released in February where more than half of the respondents said they had a negative or very negative experience with their housing. Levin said he has heard complaints during visits to Camp Pendleton, which is in his district.

“I have heard of ... a lack of equality when it comes to the different housing that is offered there,” he said. “Some of it is new and nice. Some of it is older and does have persistent problems.”

The U.S. began privatizing military housing in 1996 as a way to find money outside the federal budget to build new housing. Troops are given a stipend, called the Basic Allowance for Housing, which they can use to either find housing in the community or choose privately run military housing, which agrees to take the government rate.

Last year, Reuters ran a series of stories outlining problems with mold and slow response times by the private landlords. Recently, Congress began holding hearings. Levin’s bill would give local commanders the authority to withhold payments to landlords. Typically, private companies such as Lincoln Military Housing and Hunt Military Communities take money for housing directly from the paycheck of a sailor or Marine, leaving them with little leverage.

“It is a problem and they have to feel as though their voice is being heard,” Levin said. “And that there is transparency and accountability on the part of the company’s managing the housing.”

The bill would also require companies to respond to complaints within a certain time-frame. The bill was originally sponsored in the Senate, where the sponsors included both of California’s senators.

US Rep. Mike Levin's bill mirrors a bill introduced in the Senate that supporters say would increase oversight of the privately run housing.

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