Military Housing May Be Inching Closer to the ‘Fixer-Upper’ Treatment

March 15, 2019

Every few years, your service member spouse receives PCS orders, and the hot topic in your household is, once again, whether or not to live in on-base housing. After all, some pros come with choosing the privatized military housing route. Upsides include:

  • Easy-to-find property (unless there’s a long wait list) when private-sector housing falls short
  • Strong sense of community; a community that truly understands you
  • Convenient amenities such as a commissary, exchange, and gym
  • Gated community where kids continue to play until dinnertime

But, as of late, the mounting pile of “cons” associated with privatized military housing is making national headlines once again—for a good reason.

Shoddy maintenance.

Mold growing on windowsills, walls, and ceilings.

Lead in both the water and paint.



If Chip and Joanna Gaines were to come across any of the above in one ‘Fixer Upper’ episode, they’d most likely deem it their riskiest project yet. But, in all seriousness, these are just a few of the reported issues military families are having to deal with while living on-base—all while full Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) continues to be taken out, paycheck after paycheck, despite little to no viable improvements.

“For families, it matters to know that housing is well taken care of (well maintained, no black mold, etc.) Those privatized housing companies take all the BAH but do not update/maintain housing…” – Coast Guard Spouse


It’s important to note, however, these issues aren’t anything new to our community. Similar concerns have been documented for years—ever since the shift to privatized housing happened in the early 1990s. And these appalling experiences are monumentally affecting our service members’, along with their families’, quality of life.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in Blue Star Families’ 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, offering better housing options or increasing BAH was the top way military family respondents reported the Department of Defense could improve military families’ quality of life.

It should go without saying that while serving our country, the very last thing our military members should have to worry about is the safety of their home and how hazardous conditions might be affecting their family’s health and well-being.

So, undoubtedly, the burning question on everyone’s mind is: what’s being done to “fix” privatized military housing issues? Well, a long-awaited “demo day” appears to be in sight thanks to media, changemakers, and military leaders now paying close attention to the situation.

For starters, a rash of congressional hearings on the “Chain of Command’s accountability to provide safe military housing and other building infrastructure to servicemembers and their families” and town hall meetings at military bases all over the world have taken place throughout the last two months.

Most importantly, the above findings from the Military Family Lifestyle Survey, coupled with additional hard facts, were shared with the Senate Armed Services Committee members, Secretary of the Army, and other policy influencers to determine a plan for addressing the recent exposure of poor living conditions in privatized military housing.

As a result, the Departments of the Army, Air Force, and Navy have released a draft Tenant Bill of Rights with the hopes of ensuring service members and their families “have safe, quality homes and communities, and clear rights while living in them. It is intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies by putting more oversight authority in the hands of local military leaders.”

Do you think it’s safe to say the concerns of military families have been affirmed? Probably. Though, as with a real-life fixer-upper, a full revamp of military housing won’t happen overnight. There’s no “quick fix.” It will take lots of hard work, and we need to continue to make our voices heard to ensure the flaws in the system are properly repaired.

Make Your Voice Heard By Decision Makers

Blue Star Families’ annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey is an opportunity to do exactly that – make your voice heard regarding the issues you experience as a military family, such as military housing. When you share your experiences, we’re able to pinpoint central challenges and take those findings to decision makers to effect change and improve the quality of life for service members and their families.

Take a look at what was important to military families in 2018 here.

For the opportunity to share your experiences when the 2019 survey opens for participation, become a member of Blue Star Families today!