Army adopting new policies to help soldiers move as housing market fires up

With the housing market reaching explosive levels and soldiers moving to new orders now that COVID restrictions are lifted, some troops are having trouble finding adequate housing in their new locations.

The Army is taking new steps to accommodate the approximately 54,000 soldiers going to new areas this summer. The service is also trying to give them more lead-time to step up movers and find housing.

“The housing market is just going gangbusters across the country, that’s a good thing for the economy, but it makes it challenging if you’re looking for a rental property,” Maj. Gen. Omar Jones, deputy commanding general of Army Installation Management Command told reporters Thursday. “Many of our transportation service providers are having challenges with getting drivers, getting packers and those kinds of folks that do those services for them. That has added a whole other level of stress to what has always been already a stressful experience for our service members.”

Jones said the Defense secretary is working with Lendlease, an international hotel group that also provides privatized military housing, to provide temporary lodging for soldiers who are not able to get housing in time for their new orders. The cost of the temporary housing would be set at the basic allowance for housing.

Jones said the amount of time soldiers are staying in temporary housing varies due to local factors.

The Army is also trying to give soldiers enough time to plan and find housing they need.

“On average across the Army, soldiers are getting assignment instructions 166 days before the report date,” Jones said. “We’re going to keep working with the team in the Army Human Resources Command to improve that and do that even better.”

The Army is pushing authorities down to the enlisted level to exercise some options in delaying changes of station if needed because of moving issues.

On the moving front, service members relocating now are in the busiest moving time of the year.

“Department of Defense demand this peak permanent change (PCS) of station season has greatly exceeded commercial industry capabilities, largely due to resource constraints associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” a June Air Force Personal Property Activity Headquarters memo states. “Per industry, this resulted in a 25% decrease in their labor pool, resulting in decreased personal property movement capacity necessary to support private sector and government demand.”

Col. Courtney Abraham, director of the Army personal property lead element at Army Sustainment Command, said June and July moves were slightly higher than in the last three years.

“Over the past year, COVID has limited industry driver training opportunities, and their train labor pools have either migrated to other sectors or not returned,” Abraham said. “I suspect personnel fuel rates for the transportation service providers will increase as we progress further into the summer months, and as states reevaluate other entitlements. The COVID pandemic continues to play a huge part in this move season, and the Army continues to place the safety and welfare of our members, families and DoD civilians first.”

DoD is offering 100% reimbursement to troops who relocate on their own. The Army has seen about 13,000 of those moves so far.

The Army officials said housing issues and prices in the northwest were causing the most issues, especially at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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