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NEGISHI, Japan – “Who loves living in Negishi?”

Yokosuka base commander Capt. Greg Cornish asked for a show of hands Friday.

Every resident there — about 50 — stuck a hand in the air. Yet more than 100 homes are vacant in the Negishi Heights Naval Housing Area. The family-oriented community is down to 67 percent occupancy — which drove discussion at the annual Town Hall meeting Friday.

“It’s hard to get people to move in,” said Carol Tonumaipea, U.S. Naval Forces Japan Housing Personnel Support manager. “Twenty-one people move out; 13 people move in. You can’t force someone to live where they don’t want to.”

Misinformation about the handover of the Yokohama residential facility back to the Japanese might be part of the problem, said retired Navy resident Ed Mitchell.

“That’s the rumor,” he said. “We need to get the word out that isn’t true.”

Negishi isn’t going anywhere, not for at least 10 to 15 years, officials said Friday. In fact, they’ve said, the 400-home facility is getting a facelift and plenty of renovations to reinvigorate it for the next decade. This includes the movie theater renovation scheduled for completion by Memorial Day, said John C. Kinnamon, Morale Welfare Recreation director.

“We’re not reducing services out here,” Cornish said. “The dollars are still there.”

But the Navy Exchange is feeling the pinch in sales and shrinking enrollment at Negishi’s elementary school has led to plans for classes combining different grade levels next school year, representatives reported.

A number of strategies are being employed to combat the housing vacancies, Cornish said.

Negishi can sell itself, if people see it first, Tonumaipea said. Thanks to mandatory tours of both Negishi and Ikego that now are a part of the briefing on housing given new transfers to Yokosuka, six new people have chosen Negishi since Feb. 16, she said. Making Negishi more of a Web presence on the housing site is also in the works and opening Negishi up to other military is also being brainstormed, Cornish said.

Currently, anyone eligible for on-base family housing can live at Negishi. In the future, single senior level petty officers or civilians may be allowed to move there, he said. Also being considered is tightening the number of ranks who’ll be allowed to live off base, Cornish said.

“We’re looking at this closely, like telling people that ‘This is the housing that’s available’ and letting that be it,” he said.

Among other issues residents raised were peeling paint on trim work and discolored tap water.

Negishi is within Yokohama and can house about 2,000 people at full occupancy.

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