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Amid issues with privatized housing on bases, the Army is planning to demolish a substantial amount of its government-owned housing units on Army bases by 2026.
Army Secretary Mark Esper announced last week that the service will get rid of all of its inadequate housing over the next seven years.
“We are reallocating a pretty good sum of money to make sure we eliminate all Q3 and Q4 housing — that’s the lowest level of housing — by the year 2026 and we are increasing funding to get us on the right trajectory,” Esper said during a Feb. 5 speech at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) event in Arlington, Virginia.
Q3 and Q4 houses stand for units that cost 20 percent or more to repair compared to the price of building a completely new facility.
The Army also plans to have no families living in Q4 — 40 percent or greater to repair compared to a new building price — by 2021.
The Army maintains a little more than 14,000 housing units; about 5,000 of them fall into the Q3 and Q4 categories, according to the most recent Army family housing master plan.
The Army is making an overall push to change the way it approaches housing after an August 2018 Reuters story exposed more than 1,000 children living on bases were exposed to lead paint, dust and other debris from privatized housing.
Since then, the Army pledged to inspect 40,000 houses built before 1978 for lead paint. The inspections could cost nearly $400 million.
“I actually spent some time at Ft. Benning a few months ago,” Esper said. “I was at ground zero to observe what was happening and all the remediation taking place. We are also looking for other things like lead in drinking water and asbestos.”
Last week, Esper met with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) about the lead issue.
“The Army Secretary provided Warner with an outline of their intent to develop an environmental hazards strategic engagement plan to help mitigate health hazards for military housing moving forward,” a Warner spokesperson told Federal News Network. “According to the Secretary, the plan would implement additional occupant follow-up for all pre-1978 homes with kids under 6 years old, correct conditions found from the conducted 10 percent visual inspections and continue with 20 percent testing of all family housing.”
The Army is focusing on more than just pre-1978 houses, however.
On Jan. 16, the Army announced an email survey targeting about 10,000 residents living in Army-owned and Army-leased housing worldwide.
The purpose of the survey is to find out what soldiers and their families find important when living on base.
The housing survey is used to identify areas in housing operations that are successful or need improvement, where funding could have the most effect and are identified as top priorities to residents, and ascertain areas of success for the garrison housing office, according to Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, Army assistant chief of staff for installation management.
The Army only received a 20.3 percent response rate to the 2018 version of the survey and hopes to increase participation this year.
“If you’re not satisfied with what you’re getting make sure you fill out the surveys,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said at the AUSA event. “Don’t give them top marks. Those surveys matter. Contractors are being paid to provide quality housing for our soldiers. If they’re not doing that, you need to let us know.”