More active-duty members of the military live and work in Texas than in any other state besides California. Many live in military housing, which have largely been run by private contractors since the 1990s. A series of explosive reports by Reuters last year found hazards from mold to vermin infestations and lead paint. Yet contractors continued to get rich as military families suffered. Now, Pentagon officials are promising change, including a possible tenant bill of rights for military personnel.
Jeremy Schwartz is a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman who has reported on some of the housing issues service members have experienced at Fort Hood, Texas’ largest military post. He says a tenant’s bill of rights would be a big and welcome change for many.
“It would basically allow them to withhold rent if maintenance projects aren’t getting done and the companies aren’t taking their concerns seriously,” Schwartz says.
Schwartz says problems with military housing are widespread.
“One of the Marine generals, in a moment of candor, said a lot of these issues were being ignored, to some extent, for the last 17 years,” Schwartz says.
The reasons include the military’s prolonged involvement in wars, during which housing issues have been a lesser priority.
Schwartz says recent town meetings at Fort Hood highlighted the problems, including children getting sick or injured in housing that contains mold or is unsafe. Schwartz says the emotional testimony took high-ranking Army officers by surprise, and led to promises of action to address the issue, including more oversight over the private company that runs Fort Hood’s housing.
Schwartz says the outward appearance of military housing often wouldn’t indicate a problem, but that homes are falling apart inside.
“The sense that I get is that a lot of it is from neglect,” he says. “Air conditioning stops working, or their faucet is leaking, and it takes weeks or months to get a response. And as a result, you get these really bad mold problems that snowball.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.