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Navy conducts survey of privatized housing in response to outcry over health and safety

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John M. Richardson delivers remarks during the CNOs' 23rd International Seapower Symposium (ISS) at the U.S. Naval War College, Sept. 19, 2018. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Luke McCall/U.S. Navy)

Sailors in privatized residences now have a chance to voice their opinions about their living conditions in response to recent complaints by military families about housing health and safety concerns, Navy officials announced Tuesday.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, directed the survey, which is different than the standard annual questionnaire given to residents, according to a news release from Navy Installations Command, the headquarters responsible for service bases worldwide.

The survey aims to address concerns raised through the media and congressional hearings during the past few months about the living conditions in privatized military housing. A 2018 investigation by Reuters ignited the examination into military housing.

The Military Family Advisory Network, which advocates for servicemembers and their families, responded to the reporting by conducting its own survey. About 56 percent of the nearly 17,000 respondents said they had a negative view of their living conditions.

Stories of termites, black mold, rodent infestations, lead paint and slow response time for maintenance requests have led Congress and the Defense Department to begin drafting a tenant bill of rights for military families.

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Aside from the survey, the Navy has conducted town hall meetings at all its installations worldwide and walk-throughs where residents volunteer to have their chain of command visit their home. The Navy said it is also working with private property management companies to ensure maintenance and repairs are being conducted and other issues are addressed with their landlord, according to the release.

Each military branch has responded in various ways to complaints about housing conditions. Similar to the Navy, the Army, Air Force and Marines have conducted town hall meetings with residents and reached out for feedback through various forms of communication, including door-to-door walk-throughs in some neighborhoods.

Through the Navy survey, sailors will be able to note their likes and dislikes with privatized housing, concerns about their homes, community and services provided by privatized housing management companies, as well as overall satisfaction, according to the Navy release. Participation is strongly encouraged, though not mandated. It takes about 10 minutes to complete.

The Navy is paying CEL & Associates, Inc., an independent third party, to conduct the survey, which will go to about 36,200 residents of family housing and 6,000 sailors in unaccompanied housing. Respondents have the option to remain anonymous.

Residents will receive a letter or email with information on how to access the online survey during April. It has similar questions but is a separate survey than the annual survey conducted by privatized housing companies, which is also being conducted at this time.

In a March hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said military leaders are revisiting agreements with private housing companies.

“It is clear in many cases, we have fallen woefully short of this obligation and upon reviewing the issues surrounding housing, it is apparent there is culpability around the table,” he said.

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Stars and Stripes reporter Claudia Grisales contributed to this report.

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

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