Apartments on the support site at the Navy base in Naples, Italy.

Apartments on the support site at the Navy base in Naples, Italy. (Stars and Stripes)

With occupancy rates in family housing units comfortably above 90 percent and holding steady, the Navy on this side of the Atlantic has discontinued a two-year policy that required inbound families to reside on base.

The change took effect New Year’s Day and is meant to give incoming families the option of living on or off their assigned installation, according to Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.

This gives families “the luxury to choose,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, a regional spokesman.

The two communities directly affected are Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, and Naval Station Rota, Spain. They have 1,067 and 781 family units respectively, typically of the two-to-four bedroom variety, Benham said.

In principle, the policy shift also applies to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, the only other naval community in the region with family housing. However, Sigonella has had no problem keeping its Marinai housing area full since officials opted not to renew its lease on a second residential site, called Mineo, a couple of years ago.

Today, incoming junior enlisted personnel and their families have a waiting period of two to six months to get into any of the 526 units at Marinai, said Lt. Matt Knight, a Sigonella spokesman. Senior enlisted personnel and officers have to wait about half as long — or less.

“We really do try to accommodate people as best as we can,” Knight said.

The desire to accommodate sailors and their families is behind the decision to discontinue the on-base mandate at Naples and Rota, Benham said. Some folks want to experience the Italian culture by being a direct part of it, while others prefer the airtight security a military installation typically affords.

Currently, the region’s occupancy rate in Navy family housing is 92 percent, Benham said. The occupancy rate is continuously monitored, he added, but, for now, that’s relatively high, given the ebb and flow of the sailor population.

“If it (the occupancy rate) were trending below 90 percent for several months, that would trigger a review,” Benham said.

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