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Housing residents prepare for privatization

A sign marks the entrance to Lake Nasworthy Housing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angela Malek)

A sign marks the entrance to Lake Nasworthy Housing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Angela Malek)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- "Three hots and a cot." That's three hot meals and a place to sleep. Many years ago, that is what American servicemembers could expect in return for their patriotic service. Those who chose to don the uniform could look forward to knowing they had a meal coming to them, a cot to bed-down on and even some spending money to use during off duty-time. The military has come a long way since then and so have the expectations of compensation.

One highly regarded military benefit is housing. Numerous military housing programs and initiatives have been implemented over the past seventy years, yet military housing needs have become critical, specifically here at Goodfellow according to Maj. Pat Baker, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. Base housing units date from the 1940s and no longer represent the quality of life standards the Air Force maintains for its members. 

"The Air Force needs 14,000 new homes and 104,000 home renovations at a cost of $7 billion," said Maj. Baker. In the Air Force's "do more with less" era, a cheaper solution to the housing dilemma has become paramount, and privatized housing appears to be the answer.

The Air Force selected Pinnacle-Hunt Communities, LLC April 30 as the highest ranked offeror in the bidding for the AETC Group II housing privatization project. Negotiations are expected to close in September with tentative construction dates of late 2007 or early 2008. Goodfellow will get 239 new homes for military families.

Of course this new housing project is still in its infancy and according to Maj. Baker, completed homes are as much as 24 months away. So how does housing privatization affect those currently living in on-base units or Lake Nasworthy housing?

Lanham Housing

For those living in Lanham Housing, Goodfellow's traditional on-base housing units, they will have to sign a lease to stay in that house.

"Part of the privatization deal is that Goodfellow's base housing units are given to the new developer," Maj. Baker explained. "Families currently living in those houses will have to sign a lease with the developer that will go into effect Sept. 15, 2007 if they want to stay. The Air Force cannot make you sign a lease, therefore, families choosing to move out of Lanham Housing beginning June 1 through Sept. 15 will get a 'paid move'," he added. 

Those choosing to stay in Lanham should expect some changes when their lease begins. The developer is expected to install typical electricity meters on the homes which will generate electric bills for the residents to pay.

"Those living in Lanham will receive BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) dependent upon their rank, and their electricity bill will be subtracted from that," Maj. Baker said. An average electricity bill will be determined using real data from electricity usage over the previous 12 months. That average will be deducted from the member's BAH to determine that members actual rent payment.

"There is real incentive here to be responsible for your electricity usage," Maj. Baker explained. "If you use more electricity than average, you will have to pay the additional amount out-of-pocket. But if you conserve electricity and your bill is below average, you will get money back." Water and sewer services will be provided at no additional cost but cable television and telephone will be at the resident's expense as usual.

All 98 Lanham units will be demolished upon completion of the new housing development and the current housing site will become "green space."

Lake Nasworthy 

Those living in housing located on Lake Nasworthy have similar decisions to make, but with a few differences.

According to Maj. Baker, the lease between the Air Force and the owners of the Lake Nasworthy development is due to expire Dec. 4, 2007. This was a 20-year lease for Air Force usage of privately-owned homes.

"Those living at Lake Nasworthy will have to sign a lease by Dec. 4 if they want to stay there," said Maj. Baker. "And at that time residents will become responsible for their own electricity bills." Unlike Lanham residents, Lake Nasworthy residents will enter into individual leases with the property owner who, at that time, will no longer be affiliated with the Air Force.

The situation will essentially be no different than renting any other home or apartment in the area. Tentative rental rates have been determined by the owner and are not directly based on BAH rates. Those rental rates are available from the Housing Office on base. 

As with Lanham Housing residents, those choosing to move from Lake Nasworthy housing into the San Angelo community between June 1 and Sept. 15 will receive a paid move.

The age-old paradigm of a military member's right to on-base quarters is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Though for some, this shift in thinking may be seen as a loss of a military benefit, Maj. Baker sees otherwise.

"Those choosing to live in privatized housing will have considerably larger homes than what the military could build for them," Maj. Baker explained. The 101-acre development is expected to be gated and to include parks and playgrounds for children, among other amenities.

"The times of military members living in a house with no lease and no utility bill are gone," stated Maj. Baker. "Whether you live in privatized housing, rent a home or apartment, or buy a home, you will be signing a contract of some kind. In short, the military is getting out of the housing business."