Three of the largest companies providing on-base military housing say they are on track to implement all requirements under the Defense Department’s new Tenant Bill of Rights, though one company skipped out on appearing before lawmakers in a joint hearing on housing issues.
Representatives of three companies—Balfour Beatty Communities, Lendlease Americas, and Corvias Group LLC—testified before the House Armed Services readiness and military personnel subcommittees on March 10 that they have taken steps, including spending more money to improve housing and improving communication with service members, in the aftermath of multiple high-profile reports of substandard housing.
One company, Clark Realty Capital, declined to participate in the hearing. Readiness subcommittee chairman Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said the panels had heard “disturbing testimony” about the company’s housing and the no-show raised concerns about “their ability to be transparent” both to Congress and its residents. The company oversees housing at several installations, including Fort Belvoir, Va., and Joint Base Andrews, Md., and Garamendi said representatives would visit those installations to see first-hand the issues.
Following a series of Reuters investigations in 2019 into base housing, which highlighted extensive issues with maintenance and even falsified records, Congress passed multiple provisions aimed at holding the companies accountable and improving the quality of life for service members.
This included the Tenant Bill of Rights, signed by top military leaders in February 2020, which included 15 rights, such as clearly defined leases, timely maintenance, accurate records, and other provisions. The companies said they expect to meet the requirements by June or July, when summer permanent change of station moves pick up.
One of the highest profile problems for the Air Force focused on Balfour Beatty properties at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., where housing had extensive issues with asbestos and other problems. The Air Force required the company to submit a plan by the end of 2019 to improve its management. The company fired many of its own employees as part of a fraud investigation, and there is a Department of Justice investigation ongoing.
Rick Taylor, president of facility operations, renovations, and construction with Balfour Beatty, told lawmakers the company undertook “a significant reorganization” and improved its training.
At Tinker, the company worked to remediate issues with broken water lines that caused systemic problems, and, “I can tell you that we are slowly building back the trust of Tinker residents,” he said.