An overhead view of military housing on a base.

Daniele Buso - Unsplash

Bill Aims to Improve Military Housing Under Pressing Calls

March 18, 2019

The growing complaints over the condition of privatized housing among U.S. military members have prompted lawmakers to respond. The U.S. House and Senate have introduced bipartisan legislation to add greater safeguards for those in the military who face inadequate housing conditions.

More than half of 16,000 military respondents recently surveyed by the Military Family Advisory Network say they’ve had a negative experience with privatized housing. Many service members have cited living in homes with mold, lead, pests, and more.

The Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act would mandate installation commanders to withhold service members’ rent from a landlord after officials have been notified of any potential health, safety, or environmental hazards until steps have been taken to remedy the issue. The military housing official and service member must agree that the issue needs to be fixed.

If the bill is approved, it also would create standards for safety and include environmental and health inspectors and contractors to better monitor military housing. Also, it would require companies to pay the relocation costs of service members and their families or temporary lodging fees if the service member and their family is forced to leave a home due to its poor condition.

“It is unacceptable that some military families around the country have little or no recourse when private contractors provide substandard housing,” notes Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., said introducing the bill last week in the House. “This bipartisan legislation is an important step in holding private housing companies accountable and empowering military families.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is also proposing a new tenant bill of rights intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies and give local military leaders more oversight authority.

The military began privatizing its housing in the 1990s. About 30 percent of military families live on military bases. The majority of housing located on bases—housing about 700,000 service members and their families—is operated by private contractors.