Quarterly Housing Town Hall focuses on benefits, improvements to post housing

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Commanding Brig. Gen., David Lesperance, ensures the audience knows Housing is one of his three, main focuses during his tenure, in addition to Weed Army Community Hospital and the Child Development Centers.

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Key leaders at the National Training Center gathered to address four of the top concerns surrounding housing in Fort Irwin—how BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) is applied, how on-post rent compares to surrounding areas, what improvements are coming to post and barracks renovations.

The panel consisted of Commanding Brig. Gen. David Lesperance, Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Lowe, Garrison Commander Col. Jeanette Martin, Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Fedorisin, as well as the housing team, including RCI program manager, Sandra Key, the Villages Community Director, Adam Hay and project director with Clark Realty Capital, Megan Dougherty.

Dozens of soldiers, civilians and family members gathered at the Sandy Basin Community Center on Sept. 24 to ask questions, voice concerns and get updates on their Housing. These town halls that focus on housing are held each quarter.

BAH Breakdown

The question of how RCI Housing (Residential Communities Initiative) distributes each Soldier’s BAH has been a recurring one and Hay provided an overview. The graphic shows the amount of BAH taken is broken down into percentages, rather than actual number amount. The chart shows that whether a soldier hypothetically receives $900 or $1,500 of BAH, the same percentage of BAH will go toward administrative services, community improvements and other services, as it’s indicated.

Family Housing Comparisons

With Fort Irwin’s isolated location, the option to live off post may seem financially more appealing, even though it may be considered a geographical challenge for some. Housing representatives displayed rent fees for apartments in Barstow, Apple Valley, Victorville and Helendale, to show fees in comparison to Fort Irwin neighborhoods and the average BAH deducted for each one. There was one option shown indicating housing in Barstow would be about $100 cheaper than on-post housing. All other off-post housing costs were shown to be $100-$200 more per month, compared to the Villages. Housing reps made sure to highlight that the rent for apartments and homes in the surrounding areas did not include electricity/power, as the on-post housing does. Other amenities afforded from the Villages Housings at no fee, as opposed to off-post housing, are HOA fees, monthly pet rental charges, application fees and breaking a lease due to short orders—which can add up to about $6,300 a year in additional fees for off-post housing. Many residents say also appreciate the money they save on gas by living on post. Housing representatives also say they do not want to be considered a monopoly and are willing to help soldiers and their families if they prefer to move off post.

2019 Improvements

The Villages highlighted a few of the improvements that residents are currently experiencing and can still look forward to this year. They include more than 600 HVAC replacements and 300 flooring upgrades; 60 kitchen renovations to be complete and renovations of more than 200 exteriors in Calico Estates and Desert Winds, including painting, garage door openers being installed and new fencing. Crackerjack Flats also received new asphalt.

The improvements also will mean upgrades that personally affect the soldiers and families, in addition to the physical appearance of Housing. The Villages has added additional staffing, including eight more positions, with five of those being dedicated to maintenance and three focused on leasing. They’ve initiated surveys that are sent after work orders and move-ins, as well as an overall assessment of Housing every 90 days. The Villages have added a Marketing Manager to ensure information and events are being shared properly on as many platforms as possible. Lastly, Housing leaders have ramped up their community events to ensure there are quality activities for the residents to participate in each month.

2020 Improvements and Beyond

Here’s a look at what residents can expect next year and beyond:

255 more HVAC replacements

360 more flooring upgrades

100 kitchen renovations

New asphalt in Calico Estates, then additional neighborhoods

220 more exterior renovations, including window
replacement in Calico Estates and Sage Brush

Roof replacements

In 2023, a new super playground by Miracle Recreation

All fencing will be replaced from now through 2024

Barracks Update

Command Sgt. Maj. Fedorisin briefed the audience on improving the quality of the barracks and relayed that renovations for building 251 are scheduled to be complete by this November.

The Replacement Barracks Project is set to begin no later than 2025 and would include replacing 390-bed spaces. Renovation designs for five barracks are scheduled to be completed by March 2020 and ready for execution once funding is made available.

Before the town hall, the Garrison Command Team gathered questions from residents through social media, regarding any concerns they had about their housing. Those were addressed during the town hall, as well as questions taken live from the Facebook livestream. Questions from the audience included those about necessary repairs and move-in conditions for families and single soldier housing and barracks.

One new resident asked about pay-and-go fees and the condition of their home once they arrived at Fort Irwin.

“All fees for pay-and-go are paid out dollar-for-dollar what the tenant has paid,” Hay said, confirming no short cuts are taken for quality cleaning upon move-out.

Hay told soldiers and residents that the Villages plans to add three more maintenance workers within the next year, pending government budget approvals.

The Garrison and Offered residents the opportunity to participate in tours of Housing to see exactly where their money is going. There was also a legal representative on hand to help clarify residents’ questions and provide insight into the types of inquiries their office receives regarding housing. Housing representatives were on site to take work orders and address concerns immediately during the town hall.

The date for the next quarterly Housing Town Hall will be released soon. Times and dates may vary to try to accommodate different schedules. The Garrison Commander will also be holding monthly town halls on the Tuesday before each four-day Opportunity Leave and those dates will also soon be published.