Investors back 271 homes in Spangdahlem
April 15, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Private investors will build 271 off-base homes for American servicemembers in the Spangdahlem area, but a similar plan to build houses in the Ramstein area has been scrapped.
The new homes will help the Air Force meet the demand for units near Spangdahlem Air Base due to the upcoming closure of nearby Bitburg Air Base and an overhaul in base housing that will put more families out on the economy.
The number of houses planned is considerably less than the 1,800 German state officials had suggested about a year ago. That is largely due to the fact that a proposal to build 400 homes in the Kaiserslautern area never got off the ground because of an unexpected home building boom.
Both military communities are in the middle of major housing overhauls. The Air Force is tearing down 1950s-era stairwell apartments and building hundreds of new town homes to meet new government standards. The newer homes offer more room to families, but the housing projects will mean fewer homes on base and more families living off base.
About 400 families stationed at Spangdahlem live at Bitburg, but the Air Force hopes to close the base by 2012.
While the new homes being built at Spangdahlem are nice enough that few airmen will miss the old stairwell apartments, there will be fewer units. When Bitburg closes and the housing project is done, more than 80 percent of airmen stationed at Spangdahlem will live on the economy, according to Lt. Col. Kathryn Kolbe, 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron commander.
The Rhineland-Palatinate state government established a development company a year ago to figure out how to set up the build-to-lease program to meet the expected demand with the Bitburg closure.
The Housing Initiative Rheinland-Pfalz Management office in Mainz is overseeing the project in Spangdahlem, but private companies and investors will finance and build the homes.
The plan is similar to what has been done in communities surrounding military bases in the United States. Individual and commercial investors will build the homes with the promise that the Air Force will lease them out for American military families.
To allay any fears that the U.S. could close the base or reduce the size of the population, the Air Force has agreed to lease the homes for 10 years. The state government has added another five years of guaranteed rent on top of that to encourage investors to build, said Jurgen Leif, HIRP chief executive officer.
Unlike past off-base military housing initiatives, the homes will be scattered across the area and won’t be concentrated in one town or area. While many of the homes might be built strictly for Americans, they will look German and blend into the local neighborhoods.
The military has poured millions of dollars into Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases since the closure of Rhein-Main Air Base, near Frankfurt, in 2005.
The Kaiserslautern area is home to about 54,000 Americans and is the largest U.S. military community outside the U.S.
But Karen Leonard, the Kaiserslautern housing director, said the market has responded to the increased demand by building homes for Americans. She said most Americans can find a home in less than a couple weeks. On one day, there were 1,300 vacant rental units on their registry.
In comparison, Spangdahlem averages about 100 vacant homes on its list, according to Spangdahlem Housing Director Felecia Hastye.