Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Privatized military housing running amok

The Air Force Times reported earlier this month on how, yet again, military decision-makers misjudged soldiers' (apparently diminishing) interest in on-base housing. In this report, on-base housing occupancy for Air Force installations is running at a mere 83% of airmen, with families of civilian contractors bumping the rate to 88%. The Air Force, in this case, is saddled with filling homes and is considering opening some to basically anyone, including civilians. And, at the same time, leaders show no sign of slowing or revisiting the privatized military housing trend.

Although there are drastic differences between citations in this story and our particular beef with the Department of the Navy, it is important to note for visitors to our rally on Tuesday, October 27 (Colts Neck High, 730pm) that our case at Weapons Station Earle is not much different, from the perspective that each involved privatization...or turning over construction to outside, private developers and property managers; many have been good partners, but a few have ripped off U.S. taxpayers vis-a-vis the U.S. Military (see American Eagle Communities, toward the bottom of the Air Force Times story).

In our case with Earle, the Department of Navy is, in short, pushing the financial burden of a poorly construed 1980s privatized housing contract on the taxpayers of our communities in Tinton Falls, Colts Neck and broader Monmouth County. There was no justifiable, long-term need to build the 300 Laurelwood homes back in the late 1980s (when the DoN knew it was moving ships from their Earle homeport to other bases), and for about a decade now they've essentially been vacant (6-7 are occupied at present), and now it's evidently our communities' responsibility to make good for DoN missteps?!?!

So, rather than buying out the Laurelwood developer and saving everyone - including NWS Earle personnel and the DoN itself - a massive headache and averting a potential security disaster, the Department of Navy is steadfast about letting the developer open the homes to any willing renter on the open market, so long as the Navy can get out of a presumed $3.5-$4 million annual rent payment to Laurelwood Homes, LLC. Go figure.

We will not stand for this. See why at Colts Neck High, Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 730pm.

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