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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — The hardwood floors have buckled, the dining room ceiling has caved in, mold creeps up the walls and two dead birds litter the kitchen floor.

Granted, the base town house at Quantico’s Thomason Park is abandoned, but it is “the house next door,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Hoel, base public works director, meaning residents do live right next to the dilapidated dwelling.

All of the services are having to deal with the problem.

They have turned to the private sector for help in addressing the stateside problems through a program called Public Private Venture, a partnership between the military and a private company that will build, revitalize, repair and own housing units on land owned by the military.

The average age of houses at Quantico is about 60 years; some date back to 1918. While the base has some of the Corps’ oldest, and most run-down, housing units, many problems are representative of some of the Marine Corps housing nationwide, he said.

More than 60 percent of the Corps’ housing units are more than 30 years old, and more than half have been deemed inadequate.

Limited money, coupled with aging housing across all services, has led to a backlog of homes in dire need of either being repaired or torn down all together.

It also is a reflection of the military leadership mind-set decades ago, in which housing was considered a low priority compared to training and readiness issues.

“We have migrated from a policy of readiness which was defined in very narrow terms,” Commandant Gen. James Jones said in a statement. “Does this Marine have his rifle, his pack, his helmet, his ammunition, his food? We didn’t really worry too much in the ’60s and ’70s about the family — but things are different now.

“Not only do we worry about families, we understand that a Marine who has a family will not likely stay a Marine for very long if the family is not taken care of,” Jones said. “In today’s all-volunteer force, Marines will vote with their feet if we don’t meet their aspirations and those of their families.”

In the Corps, new housing has gone up on Camp Pendleton and in San Diego and New Orleans. Demolition and reconstruction will begin at Quantico in the coming months. By 2007, the Corps intends to privatize 97 percent of its housing, Hoel said.

The PPV goal is to have Marine Corps housing units within the United States built and repaired faster and cheaper than is possible using traditional government funds and management methods, Hoel said. Other types of programs are taking place at installations overseas.

The first contract was awarded in November 2000 for the initial 200 units of a planned 712 on Camp Pendleton. Future projects are planned for Corps units at Fort Stewart, N.Y.; Yuma, Ariz.; several bases in Hawaii; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and the Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C.

While the housing units will be owned and operated by a private company, they will be built on bases, and the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing will continue to cover the rent and standard utilities.

While a majority of the housing units at Quantico are old and small by comparisons, Marines clamor to live on base because of benefits such as military community lifestyle and security of living on base, and access to Department of Defense schools, said Vera Embick, base planner.

— For further details, go to: www.quantico.usmc.mil/quanticoppv/faq.htm#III


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