Complaints about the poor condition of privatized housing on many U.S. military bases have led to a response from lawmakers. Now, the U.S. House and Senate have introduced new bipartisan legislation that aims to provide more safeguards for military members and their families living in inadequate housing.
The Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act would give installation commanders the right to withhold service member’s rent from landlords if they’re notified of any potential environmental, health or safety issues. The rent would be withheld until the problems are fixed, the Military Times reported.
The proposed legislation comes after more than 50 percent of 16,000 military respondents in a recent survey said they’d had a negative experience with privatized housing. Problems highlighted in the survey included lead paint, mold, pests and more.
Should the bill be passed into law, it would also enshrine new standards for housing safety. It would necessitate regular inspections from environmental and health inspectors and contractors. In addition, housing firms would be required to cover the expenses of service members who’re required to relocate in the event they’re forced to leave their homes.
“It is unacceptable that some military families around the country have little or no recourse when private contractors provide substandard housing,” Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., said when introducing the bill last week. “This bipartisan legislation is an important step in holding private housing companies accountable and empowering military families.”
Separately, the U.S. Department of Defense is also considering a new tenant bill of rights that would ensure greater accountability for companies that provide privatized housing. The bill would also give military leaders more oversight.
The military began privatizing its housing in the 1990s. About 30 percent of military families live on military bases. The majority of housing located on bases—housing about 700,000 service members and their families—is operated by private contractors.