SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The first apartments being built under the Rental Partnership Program, a new initiative aimed at easing the base’s housing crunch, could be ready as soon as August, according to Gail Benton, director of Sasebo’s Housing Welcome Center.

Sasebo’s commander, Capt. Michael L. James, toured the prospective housing site last week with Hiromasa Hara, the housing facilities and budget manager. Located in Sasebo City’s Akasaki-cho, it’s tentatively been named Fleet Akasaki. The five-story complex, including 14 two-bedroom and 22 three-bedroom apartments, is under construction, Benton said Tuesday.

Phase I of the development — seven two-bedroom and 11 three-bedroom units — is slated for completion in August, she added, and should be ready for occupancy soon after developers and the U.S. military sign formal papers — a memorandum of understanding — setting out the terms of their rental agreement.

Two other developers have expressed serious interest as well, Benton said: “in Ogata-cho for 21 three-bedroom units, and Tenjin-cho for 23 three-bedroom and five two-bedroom units.” Sites and requirements for the program “have been negotiated and met,” she said.

The base adopted the rental program to ease a housing shortage that leaves about half of all new arrivals spending significant time in off-base housing. It’s designed to make Western-style, off-base housing available to all status of forces agreement personnel attached to the base.

Property owners must agree to provide apartments with certain Western facilities.

“The minimum requirements we are seeking,” Benton said, “are refrigerators, cooking stoves, air conditioners and heaters in each room, or central heat and air conditioning, full-sized washers and dryers and smoke detectors.”

Owners also must agree not to require steep security deposits, agent fees and restoration fees common to Japanese rentals, Benton said.

In return, renters must agree to one-year minimum leases and make monthly payments via allotments directly from their paychecks — removing most financial risk for the property owners.

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