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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The first real estate broker Staff Sgt. Brandy Tegels spoke with on the phone told her he had plenty of two- and three-bedroom apartments available for her and her three children.

What he showed her was a two-room apartment with crusted paint and animal feces scattered around the floor.

“He said, ‘This is all I have,’ ” said Tegels, of Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.

With help from a South Korean friend, Tegels eventually found a clean but tiny two-room apartment. It had a refrigerator and a stove when she first looked. But when she moved in, the appliances were gone.

To cook for her children, she walks about 15 minutes to Camp Red Cloud and uses a barracks stove. She then walks back with the food.

More than 700 2nd ID soldiers live off post with their families in Area I; only 14 percent are on accompanied orders. The other soldiers with families are not command-sponsored families, meaning they must pay out of pocket to travel to South Korea. Since 2005, soldiers with non-command-sponsored families residing in South Korea are eligible to request an overseas housing allowance.

During the past few weeks, Area I and 2nd ID officials have taken notice of living conditions for soldiers like Tegels and have begun developing a plan to help families find better off-post housing.

They presented that plan to soldiers at a town-hall meeting Monday on Camp Red Cloud and planned another presentation at Camp Casey on Tuesday.

“We owe it to you that you live in a decent place,” 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. James Coggin said from the audience Monday.

Real estate brokers must speak English or have co-workers who speak English and can work with soldiers. They must also be licensed, though officials said they haven’t yet looked at whether an unlicensed broker can team with a licensed broker — a common practice in South Korea.

Area I also is requiring approved brokers to provide transportation to and from bases.

That should include two or three morning trips, three or four midday trips and two to three evening trips, Area I commander Col. Larry Jackson said at the meeting.

Since soldiers would be dropped off at base gates, base buses may need to be rerouted, with additional service a possibility, said Area I deputy commander Ron Schmidt.

Area I and 2nd ID still have to work out a plan to get soldiers to post during alerts, Jackson said.

So far, one real estate broker has met Area I’s criteria. As more are accepted, they will be granted space inside the Area I housing office at Camp Red Cloud to meet with servicemembers and civilians.

Soldiers assigned to 2nd ID in Area I will be “highly encouraged,” though not required, to use an approved Area I real estate broker, Coggin said in an e-mail query. However, “our chain of command will not condone Service Members living in off-post housing that does not meet minimum safety, environmental and other Housing Inspection standards … ” Coggin wrote.

Soldiers with current leases at substandard apartments are encouraged to have them reviewed by Army lawyers to see whether the leases are breakable, command officials added.

For families that can’t get out of their lease, limited appliances like those found in a barracks room may be available, they said.

Families locked into leases said they wish this type of plan existed years ago. Shannon Givens, wife of 1st Sgt. Alvin Givens, lives in an apartment with no sink in the bathroom.

She washes her hands and brushes her teeth in the kitchen; he shaves there in the morning.

They took the apartment after looking at several worse places.

“You get so you end up just settling,” she said.

By the numbers

Of the 723 2nd Infantry Division families in Area I, only 47 are command sponsored.

The overseas housing allowance in Area I for servicemembers with dependents is $741 to $807 per month, for soldiers ranking between E-1 and O-4.

The average two-bedroom apartment in Uijeongbu costs $1,200 to $1,700 per month; Dongducheon costs $1,000 to $1,200 per month.

— Erik SlavinSource: Area I

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