Armed Forces News

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The Defense Department has made strides in improving the quality of privatized housing, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Nevertheless, more challenges remain.

The watchdog agency came to its conclusions at the behest of Congress, after numerous reports of poor conditions in privatized housing and the lack of resolution thereof by the companies that operate such facilities were made public. GAO cited these improvements:

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• Oversight of the conditions of homes got better. This is largely because DoD conducted more inspections with an expanded checklist, and required residents to acknowledge that homes were in good condition before they moved in. The individual services undertook a plan to inspect more than 205,000 privatized units for safety issues. The process will be completed by Sept. 30, 2024.

• The services also set up a process to “clearly and systematically” let residents know about their responsibilities, locations and contact information for military housing offices. The action also specifically identified the difference between these official offices and the private companies that manage the properties. Residents are being given specific contact information on an ongoing basis, and when housing issues arise.

• The services also tightened the process by which performance indicators and incentive fee structures are provided to property management companies. GAO stated the changes should provide a more accurate picture of how satisfied residents are. As an example, GAO noted that companies are judged on the quality of work they have completed rather than response times to work orders.

• Pentagon leadership is playing a larger oversight role. The Secretary of Defense’s office has ordered quarterly reviews of each of 78 privatized family housing projects. Each service is required to get approval before making changes in certain projects and standardizing information they collect during annual resident satisfaction surveys.

“Nevertheless oversight of the privatized family program will likely continue to face challenges,” GAO stated.

The Defense Department cannot order changes, for example, without concurrence from private management companies. Even though the department has acted upon a law requiring the establishment of a Tenant Bill of Rights, GAO noted that no such agreement has been reached with private companies at five installations as of this March.

“A continued emphasis on oversight is critical to ensure quality housing for service members and their families,” GAO wrote.

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