March 12, 2021

Warren, Tillis Question DoD and HUD on Accessible Military Housing for Families With Disabilities and Release Information on Concerns With Private Military Housing Providers

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.

"The responses from these companies reveal a series of concerns on accessible housing and accommodations for military families and the companies' interpretation of federal laws pertaining to disabled servicemembers."

Letter to DoD | Letter to HUD

Washington, D.C. - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent letters to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd Austin and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge seeking information regarding the availability of accessible housing and accommodations for military families with disability-related needs living in on-base installations owned and managed by private military housing companies. These new inquiries continue the lawmakers' investigation into whether the largest military housing providers under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) are complying with federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities. 

In the letter to DoD, the lawmakers requested information on the oversight mechanisms that the agency has in place to ensure that military families with disability-related needs, including the thousands of servicemembers enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, receive appropriate housing. In the letter to HUD, which has primary responsibility for enforcing the nation's fair housing laws, the senators asked about the agency's role in ensuring that military families with disabilities living in privatized homes on installations receive appropriate housing.  

In July 2020, the Military Housing Advocacy Network (MHAN), a nonprofit organization that advocates for military families to make sure that they have access to safe and appropriate conditions in privatized on-base housing, released findings from a survey of military families with disabilities revealing that many of these families are facing barriers to or are outright being denied accessible housing and accommodations. These findings suggest that private military housing companies that have partnered with the DoD do not appear to be following federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities.

In order to obtain additional information on the concerns raised by the MHAN survey, Senators Warren and Tillis sent letters to top executives at several major private military housing companies linked to the complaints on December 22, 2020. These letters requested information about the on-base housing units they manage within their portfolios to understand the operations on these installations and address any significant gaps in management that may have led to military families being denied accessible and adaptable on-base housing.

"The responses from these companies that own and manage thousands of on-base military housing units did not provide all of the information we sought, but they did reveal a series of concerns about providing accessible housing and accommodations to military families and the companies' interpretation of federal laws pertaining to disabled servicemembers," wrote the lawmakers.

Some of the concerns in the companies' responses include: 

1.     On many bases, they may not be providing families with enough accessible homes to meet federal standards even though that is the legal standard 

2.     They are not appropriately complying with all  fair housing and disability laws that pertain to their housing portfolios

3.     They are not collecting information that would help them keep track of disability-related needs across their portfolios, making it difficult for DoD to conduct any oversight and ensure compliance.

This letter is part of Senator Warren's ongoing efforts to secure safe and accessible housing and protect the rights and wellbeing of military families.