June 20, 2023

Senators Warren, Shaheen, Hirono, Representatives Jacobs, Bice Reintroduce Bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act

Legislation would Create a Council to Conduct DoD Oversight, Ensure Safe Housing for Military Families

One Pager (PDF) | Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, and Representatives Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) are planning to reintroduce the bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act, which would provide a platform for oversight and accountability of privatized military housing to give military families a voice and bring together experts to ensure military families have the safe housing they deserve. Originally introduced in 2022, this legislation would create a council that would monitor the Department of Defense’s implementation of the tenants’ bill of rights and creation of a public complaint database and would provide public reporting on all its activities.

“It is unacceptable for any of our service members and their families to live in unsafe military housing with black mold, collapsed roofs, or exposed electrical wires because DoD is failing in its oversight responsibilities,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “My bipartisan bill with Senators Shaheen and Hirono and Representatives Jacobs and Bice will mandate increased oversight of military housing, including DoD’s creation of a public complaint database, and report its work to Congress so that military families receive the safe housing they deserve.” 

“Our service members and military families sacrifice so much for all of us – and it’s our responsibility to ensure that their housing is safe and affordable,” said Congresswoman Sara Jacobs. “But I’ve heard from so many families about poor quality housing riddled with black mold, windows that won’t close, leaky roofs, or loose electrical wiring. Low-quality housing not only impacts our service members’ ability to focus on the mission but also hurts the long-term health and development of their young children. That’s why I’m proud to re-introduce the Military Housing Readiness Council Act to ensure much-needed oversight and accountability of military housing so our service members and their families have the safe housing they deserve.”

“As a steadfast advocate of our troops and their families, one of my top priorities is ensuring that military housing meets basic health and safety standards,” said Representative Stephanie Bice. “To that end, I am proud to co-lead the Military Housing Readiness Council Act with Rep. Jacobs, which will provide enhanced oversight of privatized military housing to ensure the timeliness of needed repairs, mold abatement, and upgrades to accommodate family members with disabilities. It is our duty to support those who have bravely and selflessly dedicated their lives to protecting our nation. Just as our servicemembers protect us, we must protect them.”

Specifically the Military Housing Readiness Council Act would:

Provide Enhanced Oversight

  • Review and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense regarding policies for privatized military housing, including inspection practices, resident surveys, landlord payment of medical bills for residents of housing units that have not maintained minimum standards of habitability, and access to maintenance work order systems.
  • Monitor the Department of Defense’s compliance with and implementation of statutory and regulatory improvements to policies for privatized military housing, including the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights and the public military housing complaint database.

Regularly Engage Stakeholders

  • Draw membership from the Department of Defense; every military service; officer and enlisted service members; spouses of officers and enlisted service members; a representative of the International Code Council; professionals in housing, personnel certification, and construction standards; organizations that advocate on behalf of military families regarding housing; a representative of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification; and other members to be selected by the chairs and ranking members of the armed services committees.
  • Require the Council to meet twice a year.
  • Make additional recommendations to improve collaboration, awareness, and promotion of accurate and timely information about privatized military housing, including accommodations available through the Exceptional Family Member Program.

Provides Transparency

  • Require annual reporting to the Secretary and the congressional defense committees on the Council’s activities, including analyses of complaints of tenants of housing units; data received on maintenance response time and completion of maintenance requests; assessments of dispute resolution processes, housing inspections, and overall customer service; and any survey results conducted or received by the Council.

The Military Housing Readiness Council Act is endorsed by: Armed Forces Housing Advocates,  The American Legion, and Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“Armed Forces Housing Advocates (AFHA) fully supports the Military Housing Readiness Council Act of 2023, introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Representative Sara Jacobs,” said Kate Needham-Cano, Executive Director, AFHA. “This critical legislation will enhance oversight, engage stakeholders, and provide transparency, ensuring the safety and well-being of military families in privatized military housing.”

“I’d like to thank Senator Warren for supporting military families by introducing the Military Housing Readiness Council Act,” said Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, National Commander, The American Legion. “For too long, private housing companies have failed to provide safe and habitable homes for servicemembers and their families. This legislation will finally give stakeholders a voice to keep these housing companies accountable and ensure servicemembers and their families are provided with the quality housing that they deserve.”

“Military families rightly expect and certainly deserve comfortable and safe quality housing.  Despite significant efforts by the DoD and each service, meeting this standard under the privatized housing model continues to be elusive.  Establishing a Military Housing Readiness Council provides servicemembers, military spouses, and advocates with an opportunity to provide important feedback to Congress and DoD senior leaders,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, USAF (Ret), President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America. “MOAA believes this Council will increase transparency and accountability of the resolution process instituted by the Tenant Bill of Rights and improve the overall ability to meet quality of life housing standards for military families.” 

“Issues with military housing safety and quality continue to plague service members and their families,” said Brittany Dymond, Associate Director, VFW National Security & Foreign Affairs Directorate. “This necessitates, at least in part, an approach that prioritizes maximum stakeholder inclusion, transparency, and expertise. The Military Housing Readiness Council Act, which would create a robust council charged with oversight and reporting duties, is an absolute must if we wish to eradicate unsafe housing conditions in the military. The VFW commends Senator Warren for her continued leadership on this issue as she seeks to ensure no service member or family is forced to endure hazards at home in conjunction with the challenges inherent with military life.” 

Senator Warren has led a bipartisan effort in the Senate to deliver safe and dignified housing conditions for military families and to hold private military housing providers and DoD accountable to Congress and the American people:

  • In December 2022, Senators Warren, Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressing concern over reports that military families are being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with privatized military housing companies in order to receive compensation for poor housing conditions.
  • In February 2022, during a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing, Warren pressed Pentagon nominees for tough oversight as they improve military housing conditions.
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren requested Secretary Austin for his public commitment to respond and make a priority to her requests about military housing issues during a SASC hearing.
  • In July 2021, Senator Warren announced improving military housing as one of her key priorities for FY 2022 NDAA. 
  • In March 2021, Senators Warren and Tillis wrote to Secretary Austin, and Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, continuing the lawmakers' investigation into whether the largest military housing providers under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative are complying with federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities. 
  • In December 2020, Senators Warren and Tillis questioned the five largest private military housing providers about their reported failure to provide adequate housing to families with disabilities.
  • In May 2019, Senator Warren released the findings from her three-month-long investigation of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative and of five private companies that have contracts with the military services to provide on-base housing under the program. She sent letters to then-SASC Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and then-Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, to provide each with the results of her investigation, revealing how and why private military housing developers failed to meet basic housing standards, which in some cases resulted in severe health problems for military families.
  • In April 2019, Senator Warren and then-Representative Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) introduced the Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act, a comprehensive bill to address a series of disturbing reports revealing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in privatized, on-base housing for military personnel and their families.