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Yokosuka’s second Rental Partnership Program agreement was struck Nov. 14 when Commander Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, center, met with Takara House Corporation officials.
Yokosuka’s second Rental Partnership Program agreement was struck Nov. 14 when Commander Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, center, met with Takara House Corporation officials. (Paul J. Phelps / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Caroline Tonumaipea has the best of both worlds: American-style living in a Japanese neighborhood.

With all the comforts of home plus the Japanese experience, Tonumaipea said she feels no need to live on Yokosuka Naval Base, where she works.

“It’s good to have a real stove to cook in, a big washer and dryer and a real size bathtub. My place here is big compared to my place in the States,” Tonumaipea said. “I’m very happy here.”

Tonumaipea is an “RPP” pilgrim — one of the first people two years ago to move into a Rental Partnership Program townhouse complex that when complete will provide 116 units. This month, the Navy signed another agreement with Takara House Corporation to build another 199 apartments next door by April 2008. The complexes are in Shonan Yamate, a residential area about 20 minutes from the base.

The partnership between the Navy and local developers grew out of on-base housing crunches at both Yokosuka and Sasebo naval bases. With RPP, if local developers build to American specs, the Navy provides American tenants. But unlike other off-base rentals, RPP does away with chunky upfront costs, like security deposits, agent fees, and “key money.” Apartments also come furnished with a refrigerator, washer and dryer, full kitchen, Internet access and parking.

In return, Navy tenants must commit to a year lease and paying their rent by direct deposit.

“RPP provides a wonderful short-term solution to the long-term problem of lack of on-base family housing in the Sasebo area,” said Gail Benton, Sasebo housing director.

Sasebo, where more than half the population eligible for on-base family housing must live on the economy, has 114 RPP units in four locations, said base spokesman Charles Howard.

“This is by far the largest percentage among Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan,” Howard said.

Yokosuka also suffers from limited housing space, especially now with the Homeport Ashore initiative to move junior enlisted sailors out of ship berthing and into barracks rooms. In 2008, the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier will add 300 more sailors than were aboard the USS Kitty Hawk it will replace, said Sam Ogata, Yokosuka’s deputy housing director.

The completed Takara House Corporation projects — totaling 315 units — will alleviate some of the demand, but the Navy in Yokosuka still needs more developers to come forward to reach an RPP goal of 500 units. To drum up more interest, the Navy held an industrial forum in February to introduce RPP to local developers, agents and landlords.

“Since the industrial forum, we’ve received four or five proposals, but we still only have the two signed agreements,” Ogata said.

There is no new RPP construction planned at Sasebo since a new on-base housing project is in the works in the Hario Housing area, Howard said.

Tonumaipea says a lot of people ask her about her RPP townhouse, and she likes talking about it.

“I can sell RPP because I know what I’m talking about,” Tonumaipea said. “The neighbors are nice. I can live here with my dog. I wouldn’t move back to base.”

The program is open to any servicemember or Defense Department civilian who qualifies for housing and adds participants on a first-come, first-served basis. For more details on the program and how to move into a unit, see http://housing.cnfj.navy.mil/what_is_rpp.htm.

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