In recent years, Congress has focused on improving the quality of housing on military barracks, and now five senators are asking the Pentagon to guarantee service members a complete "tenant bill of rights," required of law.
The senators are urging Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to change or kill contracts with private companies that fail to guarantee a tenant bill of rights, Roll Call reported.
"The vast majority of the military housing providers have voluntarily agreed to uphold these rights, and it is time to address the remaining bad actors," the senators wrote in the letter. If the companies "continue to refuse to provide these rights," they added, "we urge DoD to exercise its right to terminate these agreements."
The signatories were Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii; Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga.; and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
"Congress did not intend for military housing companies' compliance with the tenant bill of rights and other important provisions of the 2020 NDAA to be optional," the senators' letter stated. "Congress put mandates in place to protect military families, and DoD must use all tools at its disposal to enforce these mandates. Allowing military families' rights to be subject to the whims of private military housing contractors creates an unacceptable level of inequity."
The "tenant bill of rights," set forth in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was meant to solve or prevent conditions such as leaks, mold and asbestos contamination, Roll Call reported.
According to a Pentagon inspector general report last month, five of the 14 landlords who operate military housing have failed to guarantee tenants their rights. But a Pentagon official said only 4% of military families live in housing operated by these five companies, Roll Call reported. "However, that is still some 10,000 homes located on some of the most well-known bases in America."
The five contractors and locations are: Boyer Hill Military Housing at Hill Air Force Base, or AFB, in Utah; Burlington Capital Real Estate at Offutt AFB, Nebraska; JL Properties at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska; Miller-Valentine Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and United Communities at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
The Senate's fiscal 2023 NDAA includes language written by Sens. Warren and Tillis that would establish a Department of Defense Military Housing Readiness Council, comprising senior Defense Department civilians, uniformed personnel, outside experts, military spouses, and congressionally appointed members, Roll Call reported.
The council would make recommendations, monitor compliance with requirements, and issue public reports.
The House's NDAA would require the Defense Department to provide Congress with an annual briefing on the status of private housing deals and would require that lawmakers be notified whenever a housing contractor's lease term is extended, Roll Call reported.
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