Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Military housing "waterfall" policy

Following up on yesterday's posting about the possibility of the Department of Navy meeting with Colts Neck officials about supposed plans to outlease underutilized Balfour Beatty housing at NWS Earle, NOPE supporters should know at least a little about the U.S. military housing "waterfall policy." The description is footnoted in this May 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), pertaining to the challenges the Department of Defense is facing with privatized military housing (pg. 25):
DOD has established a tenant “waterfall” that (military housing) projects can use if occupancy falls below a certain rate. Generally, after military families are accommodated, the order of the tenant waterfall is unaccompanied military personnel, active National Guard and Reserve, military retirees, federal government civilians, and lastly civilians. (GAO inspectors) have been told some installation commanders have expressed reservations to private developers about having civilians living in military privatized housing, which at some installations, had resulted in the developer’s reluctance to rent to civilians that can potentially further constrain generating revenue.
To reiterate, it appears that the DoN in Washington has another quandry on its hands in terms of underutilized, privately-owned military housing at NWS Earle, and that it may look to impress upon local constituents another unfunded mandate, along the lines of what it had proposed (unsuccessfully) with privately-owned Laurelwood housingThis time around, it involves homes owned by multinational corporation Balfour Beatty; the company's website shows there are 82 Stark Road townhomes (2-4+ bedrooms), 7 Green Drive single-family homes (3-4 bedrooms each) and 40 Green Acres townhomes (2-3 bedrooms each).  However, BB's website also suggests that the company will demolish 38 of these housing units this month.

Back-of-the-envelope math suggests this will leave roughly 90 homes for occupancy, or less than half of the 2004 inventory (when, according to BB's website, the company demolished 100 homes; it is hard to extract from this data, however, whether these were mandated demolitions, i.e. homes reached the end of their 50-year useful lives, or BB realized many homes would simply lay fallow with the DoN continually shrinking the military workforce at NWS Earle).

Let's venture a guess that half of these 90 or so homes are occupied by active military or others who work inside NWS Earle. That would leave about 45 (or 90-180 bedrooms, depending on which units are vacant) to "outlease," or rent to another population. Assuming the DoN is considering letting Balfour Beatty rent the homes to non-attached military (i.e. veterans) or civilians, and that NWS Earle will process all of these people regularly (i.e. background checks, in/out of the main security gate on Rt. 34 in Colts Neck) through the duration of BB's contract, considerable strain could still be placed not only on base force protection (i.e. round-the-clock policing of an "outsider" community), but the host municipalities such as Colts Neck (i.e. municipal services) and Tinton Falls (i.e. schooling).

We would encourage our supporters to contact your municipal and state legislators (i.e. Senator Beck, Assemblyman O'Scanlon and Assemblywoman Casagrande) concerning this matter, and of course to stay tuned here as we attempt to flesh out the details, following word of a supposed Navy meeting this week with Colts Neck Township officials.

Monday, July 5, 2010

More NWS Earle housing nonsense to keep our eye on

NOPE business case analyst Fulton Wilcox informs us after attending the June 30 Township Committee meeting in Colts Neck that Mayor Florek casually mentioned the Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, July 7, to discuss the Navy's intent to rent non-Laurelwood base housing at NWS Earle to non-service members, such as military veterans.  Stay tuned here for more details as we uncover them.  Tinton Falls (the host for school-age dependents from NWS Earle for the past two-plus decades and a major stakeholder in what happens at the base) should be a party to such a meeting, though we have yet to track down whether Mayor Skudera has been notified or will be a party to the gathering.

The housing in question is managed (and perhaps the leasehold improvements owned) by U.K.-based Balfour Beatty (http://lacklandfamilyhousing.com/subpage.aspx?cid=54&k=neighborhoods). The declining population at NWS Earle as well as the impending closure of Fort Monmouth apparently has left vacancies in the Balfour Beatty managed housing, leaving the Navy again to pay for vacant housing unless Balfour Beatty “outleases” the homes, much as the Navy had hoped to do with Laurelwood housing. 

NOPE will keep a close eye on this turn of events this week, considering the potential ramifications (i.e. security, financial, educational, environmental) to all stakeholders in Colts Neck, Tinton Falls and Monmouth County, and in light of the ill-fated and now-defunct Laurelwood civilian housing conversion at NWS Earle.

As much as NOPE objects to letting civilians live on an active military base like NWS Earle, we have little say regarding the pecking order of potential tenants in military base housing, since that is determined by federal law. The fatal flaw of the proposed Laurelwood conversion was that the Department of Navy sought unimpeded access to the base (i.e. no security gate, no background checks on prospective renters), which was clearly a horrific idea -- one that the Navy admitted in retracting the Laurelwood civilian housing plan.  In the case of the 40-60 unused Balfour Beatty homes, we assume for now that renters will need to qualify for credentials to pass through front-gate security at the Rt. 34 entrance.

In short, with privatized military housing contracts, if there are not enough active-duty military to live in the homes, there is a pecking order of available tenants the Military can seek to occupy the homes (i.e. military bachelors, contractors, military retirees, veterans, etc.), with civilians the renter of last resort (and we have found many base commanders in the U.S. opposed to civilian housing on their bases).  We can only guess at this time that local veterans groups (i.e. proponents of the Accettola Plan, Neptune Housing Authority) are somehow involved in the Balfour Beatty issue, but will track this case closely.

This is just one example of why, NOPE feels, the District 12 legislative team needs to see through the passage of S762-A2014, mandating a State Treasury study into proposed housing conversions at NWS Earle, since housing decisions have a far reaching impact on New Jerseyans, whether they know it or not. To understand the true financial impact of federal/military mandates and conversions such as Laurelwood (and now, potentially, Balfour Beatty homes at NWS Earle) would give the State Legislature the ammunition it needs to protect the interests of the state and host municipalities. We will again contact Assemblywoman Casagrande and Assemblyman O'Scanlon for an update on whether their bill will pass in Trenton.