Defense Bill Includes Legal Protections for Military Families in Privatized Housing
WASHINGTON, D.C. —The National Defense Authorization Act released today by the Senate Armed Services Committee 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 how problems at contractor-provided military housing are addressed.
The included 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 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.
“I’m grateful to Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed for including our reforms to protect military families,” Senator Feinstein said. “It’s our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our service members, not just when they’re serving abroad but also at home. Unfortunately, too many military families are living in hazardous conditions and have little or no recourse to fix the problems. Our legislation solves that and provides comfort to service members who will know their families’ homes are safe.”
“Servicemembers and their families have made great sacrifices to protect our country, yet when it comes to having their backs after being exposed to hazardous living conditions in private military housing, we have failed to make that same commitment,” Senator Warner said. “That’s why I’m proud to have successfully pushed for language in this year’s NDAA that will provide much-needed oversight and accountability over privatized housing companies and ensure servicemembers can feel safe in their own homes.”
“It’s intolerable that families who sacrifice so much for our nation have been subjected to hazardous conditions in their own homes,” Senator Kaine said. “I’m relieved that we were able to get our legislation included in the annual defense bill so we can ensure that military families have legal protections and that private landlords are held accountable.”
“The conditions reported in privately-operated military housing at Camp Pendleton and across the country are unacceptable. We need to make this right for the service members and their families who sacrifice so much for our country every day,” Senator Harris said. “I’m grateful that our legislation to improve military housing will be included in this year’s national defense bill and that the United States Congress is taking seriously its responsibility to ensure safe and comfortable housing for military families.”
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 their own homes, 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.