Housing privatization gets closer

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Every now and then you get to be nearby when something changes forever. This is one of those times--the Department of Defense's Housing Privatization (HP) initiative is forever changing the way military families live on or near our bases.

After several years of effort and preparation, we at Goodfellow will make that transition later this summer and you need to be ready. But what is Housing Privatization and what does it mean to you the military member or spouse; what specific preparations do you need to make to ensure you're ready; and what are the key dates you need to be aware of? Let me address each of these individually.

Housing Privatization is a joint effort between the Air Force and a private developer. These two entities enter into a legal partnership and jointly develop the housing privatization program as the Project Owners (PO). We at Goodfellow will lease the Lanham Housing area and Senior Officer Quarters area on-base and approximately 100 acres of land off to the north east of the base to the PO for a 50-year term. The PO will develop the land, build homes, and manage the homes (rent, maintenance, etc) for the life of the 50-year project. The PO will have "reinvestment" accounts to accumulate money and provide regular updates to the homes. The PO will have on site management and maintenance teams to handle any issues.

Specifically at Goodfellow, the PO will build 11 new houses on base for senior commanders and 228 homes on land donated to Goodfellow by the City of San Angelo. All of these homes will have square footages and conveniences like you would find in the nicest downtown communities. The homes will be rented to military families at a basic allowance for housing (BAH) dependent rate. How do you determine your rent? In a nutshell - a utility allowance will be developed as an average of what your unit's electric and gas bills are ON AVERAGE. Your rent will be your BAH minus the utility average--you will be responsible for utility bills over the average; but you will get money back if your utility bill is less than the average. You have a built in incentive to conserve--your wallet. You will pay your entire BAH in an allotment to the PO who will deduct your rent and keep an eye on your utility bill and let you know when you owe money or when you get money back.

What specific preparations do you need to make to transition to HP and when do you need to do them? First, if you live on base you need to be prepared to sign a lease with the PO--we expect to begin signing leases in the August time frame. That means that if you are deploying you'll need to leave a special power of attorney with your spouse, a general power of attorney is not sufficient. In addition to lease signings, you'll also be setting up your allotment to pay your rent and utility bills.

If you live in Lanham and decide you want to move out rather than live in privatized housing, this move is a government paid move but must occur prior to the PO taking control of housing. We now expect that to happen on or about Sept. 1, 2007 (this was previously Sept. 15, 2007). So if you haven't scheduled your move with the base housing office, you need to schedule it as soon as possible. On a related note - if you live in Lake Nasworthy and want to move out and haven't scheduled your move yet, you also need to contact the base housing office (654-3498) and get your move scheduled quickly.

What shouldn't you do? Please don't panic. This is not the end of the world - the housing the PO will construct will be larger and have more amenities than anything the government would be authorized to build you. You'll get garages, modern kitchens, large bedrooms, master suites, walking trails, playgrounds, and community centers--everything you would get if you paid to live in the most exclusive off-base housing areas. But you will get them at a BAH-controlled rent and there will always be a government representative nearby to help you through any troubling issues.

The bottom line is the PO has to build you a home that you would choose to live in - you get to vote with your BAH. If you don't like HP, fine - live downtown in the home of your choice. But overall, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what the developer will be able to offer you. Get ready Goodfellow, Housing Privatization is coming soon. If you have specific questions, please contact the base housing office for more information.