Local

April 26, 2013

Base housing not just roof over head

Staff Sgt. C.J. HATCH
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Everyone needs a place to live. Military members have the option of living in the local community or living in base housing. Those who choose to live on Luke Air Force Base become acquainted with Balfour Beatty Communities.

Almost 17 years ago Congress established the Military Housing Privatization Initiative as a tool to help the military improve the quality of life for its service members by improving the condition of their housing.

“The MHPI was designed and developed to attract private sector financing, expertise and innovation to provide necessary housing faster and more efficiently than traditional military construction processes would allow,” according to the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Installations and Environment website. “The Office of the Secretary of Defense has delegated to the military services the MHPI and they are authorized to enter into agreements with private developers selected in a competitive process to own, maintain and operate family housing via a 50-year lease.”

Luke housing was privatized in February 2007 and is now owned and operated by Balfour Beatty Communities, who also maintain privatized housing on 18 other Air Force bases including, Tinker AFB, Okla., Lackland AFB, Texas, and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

“Here on Luke we maintain 550 housing units,” said Donnell Oakley, BBC Luke community manager. “There are 399 units on the main side of base, called Saguaro Manor, and 151 units in Ocotillo Manor just across Glendale Avenue.”

As part of the privatization BBC began to renovate some homes, and destroy and build new homes for those living in their on-base community.

“We built 101 new homes including six commanders’ houses,” Oakley said. “The other 95 were junior NCO houses, but we didn’t just destroy and rebuild. We also renovated 238 of the existing homes.”

The housing on base, new or renovated, currently is available to military members assigned to Luke. However, if more people choose to live off base, housing can open to others and is subject to a priority system.

“Priority to occupy homes is given to service members assigned to the installation,” the MHPI states. “However, if there is not enough demand for housing from military personnel and, as a result, occupancy rates drop below a certain level for a defined period of time, the developer can rent to other personnel. The developer must follow a priority list of other possible tenants as defined by the tenant waterfall. For example, the waterfall could be: 1. other military members not assigned to the installation or unaccompanied service members, 2. federal civil service employees, 3. retired military, 4. guard and reserve military, 5. retired federal civil service employees, 6. Defense Department contractors or permanent employees and then 7. the general public.”

Because of the current occupancy at Luke the housing is currently open to all priority levels.

“A little while ago we dropped so much in our occupancy due to permanent changes of station and other things that we hit the rate where we are open in all,” Oakley said. “However, the general public category is only available in the Ocotillo housing area and is for people who pass a background check and a list of other requirements. If a widow of a service member wants to live on base, she can still use her identification card to get on base and use the facilities but she would still fall into our general public category. With our current occupancy levels we could now rent to her.”

The BBC has many programs and incentives for staying in housing, like a deployed spouses program, 24-hour maintenance, no pet or security deposits and community events.

“We try to make everyone in base housing feel welcome,” Oakley said. “We recently had a survey of the residents and we received an 87 percent favorable rating. We want all our residents to be happy, and so we developed programs like the yard of the month, or hold community events like our Easter egg hunt. We also provide our residents with 24-hour maintenance and care.”

While BBC tries to accommodate the members living in housing, there may come a time when a member may need help resolving problems beyond what BBC provides.

“The 56th Civil Engineer Squadron housing management office suggests Luke members first try to resolve housing issues with BBC by going through their established process,” said Mary Watson, 56th CES installation housing manager. “If the matter is not resolved to the member’s satisfaction they can come to our office to work the issue through us and the BBC.”

For more information, call BBC at (623) 388-3515 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the event of an emergency in housing, call the 24-hour number at (623) 935-2676.




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