Military housing evolves after 50 years

  • Published
  • By Jeanette White
  • 95th Civil Engineer and Transportation Directorate
Team Edwards has seen many ups and downs over the past 10 years. With reductions in military manpower, the base's family housing authorization has steadily decreased as well from 1,989 to the current 796 units.

Houses have been demolished and new ones built. Some family housing units were converted to apartments for unaccompanied members. Many families had to move to other houses on base to make way for improvements. No family was forced to move off base because we met our goal of providing housing to all who had to move for the demolition of old homes.

New homes on base are now 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.

However, with budget issues across the Air Force, occupants might find differences in amenities in the housing areas. When Juniper Ridge was built in 2000, we were able to afford concrete tile roofs and ceramic tile counter tops. In our latest areas, completed in 2007 and 2008, we have basic asphalt roofs and melamine counter tops. However, these latest additions to the housing inventory are significantly larger than older units, and all have double-car garages. 

Construction on the currently available units began in Mountain View in 1997, which added 161 homes for junior military members.
Since then, we have demolished 549 homes that made way for 254 new homes in Joshua Acres.

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, that gave 55 new homes for junior enlisted members.

As part of the fiscal 2005 project, 164 houses were completed including 55 homes for junior enlisted, 60for CGO's, 36 for senior NCO's and 13 for field grade officers. For the ongoing fiscal 2006 project, all the homes in Palo Verde Heights will be demolished. This will pave way for 39 additional CGO units, 61 field grade units, 21 units for colonels and generals and six prestige units for chief master sergeants. At the same time, demolition in Mesquite Meadows will be completed, and some demolition will begin in Pacific Winds.

The old Tamarisk Plains housing area had 100 homes demolished, and we will gain a total of 236 new homes in that area when completed in 2010. The east side will remain as Tamarisk Plains and will house company grade officers, while the west neighborhood will be called Acacia Hills for Senior NCOs and field grade officers. A large community park will separate the two areas.

In July 2009, the mobile home park will be closed paving a way for a community park and an annex to the Fam Camp recreational vehicle park here.

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

The next step for Edwards housing will be privatization.

Privatization means a developer, or project owner, will own all of base housing with a 50-year lease of the land and will be responsible for 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. 

Several plans for the privatization include a community park and trails linking the neighborhoods. The plan may also include amenities such as additional parks and play areas and a new housing community center.

Currently, the development stage is almost finished, and the request for proposal should be out this summer for bids from private developers. A panel will choose a developer who they think will be in the best interest of Edwards and the Air Force. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, it is conceivable that Edwards housing may be privatized in 2009.

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 will receive basic allowance for housing and pay rent in the form of an allotment to the project owner.

The 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 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, 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.