Warren Leads Bipartisan Call for Secretary Austin to Terminate DoD Agreements Without All Housing Rights for Military Families
Some Military Housing Providers are Still Failing to Implement Tenant Bill of Rights for Military Families, Despite Legal Requirement
“Allowing military families’ rights to be subject to the whims of private military housing contractors creates an unacceptable level of inequity.”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, calling on him to use all tools and authorities at his disposal to protect military families from private housing contractors that are not providing protections guaranteed by the military tenant’s bill of rights. Despite requirements in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), five private military housing providers are still failing to implement key rights for military families.
“Congress did not intend for military housing companies’ compliance with the tenant bill of rights and other important provisions of the 2020 NDAA to be optional. Congress put mandates in place to protect military families, and DoD must use all tools at its disposal to enforce these mandates. Allowing military families’ rights to be subject to the whims of private military housing contractors creates an unacceptable level of inequity,” wrote the senators. “If those companies – Boyer Hill Military Housing, Burlington Capital Real Estate, JL Properties, Miller-Valentine Group, and United Communities – continue to refuse to provide these rights, we urge DoD to exercise its right to terminate these agreements.”
A recent report from the DoD Inspector General found that these five private military housing providers, which provide over 10,000 military family housing units, are still failing to implement key rights under the DoD tenant bill of rights, including providing service members and their families their homes’ maintenance histories, the right to enter a dispute resolution process, and the right to withhold basic housing allowance payments to the landlord while a dispute resolution process is ongoing.
“The NDAA – in order to help address the systemic failures of the private landlords to respond to families’ needs and provide safe and sanitary housing – required that military families who live in on-base housing be provided with maintenance histories of the homes they rent, alternate dispute resolution processes, and the right to withhold payments to landlords during disputes. And when DoD failed to include these rights in its first draft of the tenant bill of rights Senate Armed Services Committee leaders made clear on a bipartisan basis that they were non-negotiable, noting that their exclusion created ‘glaring holes’ and went ‘directly against the promises made by the Department and the housing companies that they would work to regain the trust of our military families,’” continued the senators.
All of the senators who signed the letter sponsored the Military Housing Readiness Council Act, which would create a Council with a mandate to guarantee the full implementation of the tenant bill of rights. The senators are calling on Secretary Austin to fully enforce the DoD tenant bill of rights and are asking him to answer a set of questions about DoD’s implementation and enforcement plans by December 14, 2022.
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 August 2022, Senators Warren and Tillis introduced the Military Housing Readiness Council Act, legislation that would ensure oversight and accountability on safe housing conditions for service members and military families. The legislation would create a Military Housing Readiness Council comprised of DoD officials, service members, military families, and military housing experts to ensure ongoing oversight of deficiencies in privatized military housing. The proposal was included in the FY 2023 Senate NDAA. Representatives Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
- In June 2022, Senator Warren announced the Military Housing Oversight and Service member Protection Act as one of her key priorities for the FY 2023 NDAA. The proposal would ensure medical care for military families affected by unsafe housing by directing DoD to establish a health registry for all service members and families and establishing a presumption of service-connected disability for service members and lifetime medical care for dependents.
- 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 July 2021, Senator Warren announced improving military housing as one of her key priorities for FY 2022 NDAA
- 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 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.
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