YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Troops transferring to Yokota this summer will no longer have the choice of living off base in most cases.

Following the lead of Misawa and Kadena air bases, Yokota is trying to save off-base housing costs by requiring servicemembers and their families to live on the installation.

But because a $232 million housing renovation project will be under way when the new policy takes effect, incoming families will get the choice to live off base if the unit they are offered is slated for refurbishment within a year, said Col. Rafael Quezada, commander of the 374th Mission Support Group at Yokota.

Once renovations of several hundred units are completed in November, the off-base option will likely not be offered, Quezada said.

It costs the military between $35,000 and $45,000 a year to house an individual or family in the community surrounding Yokota, while only about $5,000 if they live on base, Quezada said.

The 160 troops — some single, some married — now stationed at Yokota and living off base will not be required to move onto the post when the policy takes effect.

Government-employed civilians hired from the U.S. to work for the military overseas typically receive hefty housing allowances. Some agencies require them to live on base when housing is available to control costs.

But between the new policy and the limited inventory due to construction, the base may have to begin enforcing a regulation that requires civilians who have lived on base for more than five years to move off if housing is needed for servicemembers.

There are 42 long-time civilian residents of Yokota who could face a move off base this summer, said Quezada, who notified them by letter this week. At least one employee has lived on base for 20 years, he said.

Quezada would not speculate on the likelihood the five-year rule would be invoked, but he did say "it’s a possibility."

But it may not be necessary to kick civilians off Yokota considering there are roughly 200 to 300 surplus housing units created by the declining population in recent years as military units have been relocated.

Between 700 and 800 units have been identified by the base as surplus, though Quezada has "taken off the books" about 500 by converting them to officer and civilian "dorms," contingency lodging and temporary housing for those transitioning to and from Yokota — a plan that still requires permanent approval from Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials have agreed to re-evaluate the housing surplus situation at Yokota after contending this fall that 1,230 of the base’s 2,639 units should be mothballed to make operations more efficient. Quezada said the base disputed the Pentagon’s figures because they did not take into account the needs of the civilian population, and Pentagon officials agreed.

Once a determination is made, the excess units — built by the Japanese — will be shuttered, not razed, he said.

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