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Housing changes on horizon

By April Blumer | 37 Training Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 20, 2006

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — Administrative changes are coming in the way Lackland's housing areas are
managed. On Nov. 1, most remaining government housing on Lackland will be privatized and combined with existing privatized housing in Frank Tejeda Estates.

By Sept. 30, base housing residents electing to stay in their current housing
will be required to sign a lease with Lackland's private developer. Those who
elect to not sign a lease must notify base housing and move off base by Nov. 1,
an expense the government is willing to absorb.

"It's their choice," said Deputy Engineer John Heye, 37th Civil Engineer
Squadron. "That's the beauty of this thing. If they're more comfortable living
off base because they want to own their own home or they want to live in a
different area, it's their option. They do not have to stay on base."

Once the Lackland housing areas are privatized, the military members living in
those areas will see an entry on their leave and earnings statement for basic
allowance for housing. Previously, only members living off base saw this benefit
reflected on their statement and in their bank accounts.

Unlike off-base residents, however, on-base residents will not actually see the
additional money. Instead, at the time the housing occupants sign the lease, the
military member will also sign a form issuing an allotment to the Realm Group,
the developer's managing partner, totaling the amount of the BAH. That amount
covers the rent, utilities and refuse of the housing unit.

The allotment ensures there are no delinquent payments, money that is being used
to build and upgrade the housing on Lackland. It also allows the developer to
waive the requirement for a security deposit from the member.

"We are using the BAH to finance this because the Air Force does not have the
capital investment. So the BAH we already have in the budget for the individual
will go to the developer, and he uses that money to build these much quicker
than we could ever have done it," explained Mr. Heye.

Additionally, with Lackland's privatization, utilities are covered by the BAH
allotment to the developer. The member will not have a utility bill for the
first few years of the privatization.

According to Mr. Heye, in 2011, the developer will begin providing members a
mock bill showing their actual usage. By 2011, the developer will complete the
installation of water and electric meters on the housing units and set a
benchmark for normal household utility use for each unit based on at least one
year of measured usage.

The member's entire BAH will continue to be allotted to the developer to cover
the utility bill. The member may be subject to paying an additional amount to
the developer to cover the amount exceeding 110 percent of the normal usage.
However, this will ultimately be the developer's decision, not the military's,
said Mr. Heye.

While some residents have openly expressed concern about timely responses to
maintenance issues, Mr. Heye feels confident the developer will continue to
provide the quality service seen in the Frank Tejeda Estates, a housing area
privatized in 2000.

"We have over six years of history with (the developer). We have partnered with
them, they have partnered with us, and they are very responsive," assured Mr.
Heye, while offering various avenues, such as the management review committee
and the tenant representatives, in the event there are unresolved issues. "I
think the residents are going to see that the developer is going to continue
that service, and that they will maintain the units as well as we could have
done it ourselves."

But not all housing areas are going to be privatized, emphasized Mr. Heye. Those
currently living in Billy Mitchell Village and Chennault housing will not be
immediately affected because those areas will remain government housing.
However, these residents will be able to put their names on a waiting list to
move into privatized housing.

While some worry about the impact privatization will have on military housing,
Mr. Heye said this is a good thing for Lackland.

"Folks are going to get units on par or better than off base," he said, citing
lessons learned from the FTE privatization, such as smaller homes housing larger
families and narrow streets. "They are big units. The square footage is very
comparable, and in some cases more, than what (Airmen) could get off base."
Additionally, Lackland will be home to 883 housing units less than 10 years old
by 2010.

"We could never have obtained this without going this privatized route. ... We
can't get quality housing as quickly as we're going to be getting it. We would
never have done it by 2010.

"I would hope people will give the developers a chance, because some people are
set on moving right now. That's fine, but they should at least hear what the
developer has to offer. People might be pleasantly surprised about what they're
going to get. But again, that's the beauty of this. It's the decision of the
member."