The Human Side of Military Housing Privatization

I’ve written twice over the last week about the successful military housing privatization program (see here and here), but yesterday’s Daily Herald (Everett, WA) goes beyond the technical workings of the program and offers a glimpse into the human side of the initiative:

Until Friday, Navy Chief Warrant Officer David Nealon and his wife Ivette had never lived in a new house.

Four years after the Navy first formed a public-private partnership to build acres of new military housing in the Northwest, the Nealons and their daughter are among hundreds of families now enjoying the thrill of settling into new digs.

The new homes for military families at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station are a boost to morale compared with the outdated, dumpy duplexes that used to dot the base housing areas near downtown Oak Harbor. […]

Today, local politicians, Navy officials and residents are proud of the new homes, some of which are colorful three- and four-bedroom two-story structures with family rooms, Craftsman-style porches and energy-efficient appliances — homes that ordinarily could carry at least a $300,000 price tag out on the market.

Nealon, a career Navy man in his 40s, will spend his monthly Navy housing allowance on rent, paid to Forest City, a Cleveland-based $11.7 billion national real estate company.

The top brass at Whidbey can’t say enough good things about the work that [contractor] Forest City has done in the past 18 months since taking over the contract. The company has delivered homes on or ahead of schedule, along with playgrounds, pedestrian trails, dog parks, extra sidewalks and community centers. “Forest City is building better houses than the Navy ever would have,” said Capt. Gerral David, commanding officer at NAS Whidbey, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in one of the new neighborhoods last week.

Rear Adm. James Symonds of Navy Region Northwest got his start in the Navy living in one of the duplexes that once stood a short distance from the ceremony. “It’s important that we take care of the families of these sailors, and there’s no finer way than with these fine homes by Forest City,” Symonds said. “None of those duplexes looked anything like these.” […]

In northwest Washington, the Navy owns the land and Forest City Military Communities owns the houses. Under a 50-year agreement, Forest City has committed to managing the new homes. Revenue from rent will be reinvested to pay for renovations and repairs, said Michael Nanney, Forest City’s senior project executive on the Navy Region Northwest housing projects. […]

Nealon watched with pleasure as his 4-year-old daughter Malena checked out her new bedroom and the movers helped bring in the heavy boxes. “I’m too old to try to keep up an old home,” Nealon’s wife, Ivette, said. “We’re very excited about the brand-new house.

Reason’s Federal Privatization Research and Commentary