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The Army’s plan to move thousands of troops from Germany to Italy by the end of 2012 might depend on a group of Italian homebuilders.

Construction on new office facilities and barracks for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team on the Dal Molin airfield is continuing on schedule, according to U.S. officials, but concerns over sufficient family housing might keep troops in Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany longer than expected.

“Our intention is to still move within the time line we’ve announced,” said Bruce Anderson, a public affairs officer for U.S. Army Europe. “But we have to have the construction done. And we have to be able to house people.

“[The move] is event driven and not calendar driven.”

According to the calendar, there are about two years left to build the needed homes.

The U.S. is still negotiating with developers on the construction, according to Annette Fournier, a public affairs officer for U.S. Army Garrison-Vicenza. She said base officials won’t talk about the issue until the deals are completed.

A survey in 2004 found there was a limited number of homes with four and five bedrooms in Vicenza. Finding homes with three bedrooms was difficult.

“That is correct,” said Stefania Zocche, who owns La Crote dei Miracoli, a real estate/housing management firm in the city. “Italians do not want to buy such big houses.”

The survey was conducted before the Army announced plans to move in about 2,000 more troops and their families, potentially compounding the problem.

The U.S. plans to house about 1,200 single enlisted troops in barracks on Dal Molin. Lodging will have to be found for the remainder — some of which exists, but the rest would have to be built.

The U.S. wanted another large housing community similar to the existing Villagio complex. That plan fell through in 2007 when the town of Quinto Vicentino rejected a 251-home development plan due to growth restrictions imposed by the Veneto region.

Then the U.S. decided to get Italian developers to build smaller housing projects in and around Vicenza. Italians would maintain ownership and the U.S. would agree to lease the homes for specified periods.

There is interest in that idea, Zocche said, but there are issues as well.

“The cost of the ground and the cost of building in Vicenza is very high,” she said.

Investors believe it will take years to see a return on their money. They also want guarantees the U.S. will continue to lease the homes, because otherwise they could be stuck with property that nobody wants.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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