Privatization on tap for Edwards housing areas

Contractors put the finishing touches on new housing units in the Tamarisk Plains housing area here. One hundred homes were demolished in the area to make way for 236 new homes and a large community park. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Mike Young)

Contractors put the finishing touches on new housing units in the Tamarisk Plains housing area here. One hundred homes were demolished in the area to make way for 236 new homes and a large community park. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Mike Young)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Edwards residents have seen many ups and downs over the past 10 years. Because of reductions in military manpower, Edwards' family housing authorization steadily decreased from 1,989 to the current 796 units. 

Houses have been demolished and new ones built. Some family housing units in Desert Villa were converted to apartments for unaccompanied members. Many families have had to move to other houses on base to make way for improvements. 

More new homes on base are similar to homes in the off-base communities. They feature air conditioning, carpeting and grounded electrical outlets not found in older units built in the 1950s. 

Construction of new units began in new Mountain View in 1997, which added 161 homes for junior military members. 

Since then, we have seen demolition of 549 homes making way for 254 new homes in Joshua Acres. 

Then in 2000, 99 homes in Juniper Ridge were torn down and 90 new homes were built to house senior noncommissioned officers and company grade officers. Next, we saw demolition in Mesquite Meadows and recent completion of 55 new homes for junior enlisted members. 

The remaining homes in that area are currently being demolished. 

Tamarisk Plains is currently under construction, with 100 homes demolished and 236 new homes and a large community park underway. The two projects will replace Tamarisk Plains and Palo Verde Heights. 

The fiscal year 2005 project includes 55 homes for junior enlisted members, 60 CGO units, 36 senior NCO units and 13 field grade units. During the fiscal 2006 project, all the homes in Palo Verde Heights will be demolished providing space for 39 additional CGO units, 51 field grade units and six prestige units for chief master sergeants. 

The last phase in the housing plan is to demolish all of Pacific Winds, which will bring Edwards to its authorized 796 homes. 

After all the changes we have seen in housing over the last 10 years at Edwards, one might assume that the dust has settled and we can now look forward to getting back to "normal." 

However, the Air Force Flight Test Center motto "Ad Inexplorata" also seems to describe Edwards housing future, since the next step will be housing privatization. 

Privatization means a developer will lease all of base housing for 50 years and take over their operations and maintenance. All Air Force installations in the United States are slated to privatize under the Office of the Secretary of Defense's goal to eliminate all inadequate military family housing by 2007. 

We are not sure specifically when Edwards will privatize, but it is scheduled to happen in the next two years. Last November, it was announced that Edwards' privatization would be grouped with Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. The request for proposal is under development by a team comprised of housing experts from all three installations, Air Force agencies and government contractors. 

Every privatization contract is different. In our grouped situation, the developer will provide Eglin AFB with 1,214 new homes and Hurlburt Field with 470 new homes. Since Edwards will be building homes that are all newer, we are slated to receive new community features, which include parks and play areas, trails connecting neighborhoods and a new housing management office. 

The transfer of homes from government to private management should be seamless to occupants, but there will be some differences. Members stationed at privatized installations receive basic allowance for housing and pay rent in the form of an allotment to the contractor. 

Arguably, the most notable difference is that occupants will be responsible for paying for the utilities they consume. However, the BAH is adjusted to allow for normal consumption based upon a utilities study. 

The other difference that we may see is that civilians could conceivably live in base housing. If the houses are not 95 percent occupied by military members, there are provisions to allow others to sign a one-year lease. This is called the "waterfall," and will be carefully monitored to ensure people moving in have clear records and are not a threat to our community. 

After active-duty military waiting lists are exhausted, the opportunity for base housing will be given to Guard and Reserve military members and families, federal civil service employees, retired military members and families, retired federal civil service, Department of Defense contractor permanent employees and finally the general public. 

Although housing privatization will bring changes, we are moving into this new era confident that our homes and neighborhoods will remain a great place to live. Even though a developer will manage our homes, base leadership will ensure management meets our needs and expectations.