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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Still can’t get housing on Sasebo Naval Base, which persists in having the highest on-base housing shortage by percentage among U.S. bases in Japan?

Help is on the way — eventually. In the meantime, base housing officials say, an array of shorter-term plans are aimed at improving off-base lodging for status-of-forces-agreement personnel at the southern Japan base.

For more than five years, a lack of on-base housing has forced 50 percent to 55 percent of those who qualify for such lodging to live elsewhere, said Gail Benton, Sasebo’s housing director, and Lt. Cmdr. Brett Blanton, its public works officer.

Although actual numbers fluctuate depending on base staffing levels, at the end of January that translated to 371 families or 947 people living off base, she said, adding that some new arrivals can expect to be on a 12- to 18-month waiting list.

Based on cumulative data from housing surveys done through several years, Benton said, the base has shown a consistent need for 398 additional family housing units.

A long-term solution is part of ongoing talks among a Facilities Adjustment Panel established by the U.S.-Japan Joint Committee. Plans call for adding a total of 398 new housing units for Sasebo Naval Base personnel at the main base and Hario facilities, mostly on now privately owned property adjacent to Hario.

“But a lot of how this all works out depends upon how we use the land in the area,” Blanton said. “What we are interested in is building a community in Hario, not just a whole bunch of houses.”

Toward providing more immediate housing relief, base officials met in 2004 with local property owners and builders to establish a Rental Partnership Program as “an interim, short-term” approach to the housing shortage. Willing local builders were to construct rental units to Western specifications in return for a Navy agreement to refer them to potential renters.

To date, four buildings with a total of 114 units are functioning as part of the RPP, Benton said. Three are near the Akasaki Fuel Terminal and one is in Nonaka-cho about 20 minutes from the base.

In the near future, townhouses in the main base housing area will be demolished to make way for a new expressway bypass through Sasebo. Builders currently are clearing nearby land to construct Fiddlers Green, which will feature 11 housing units. In addition, a new 44-unit mid-rise is being built at the Hario Housing Village about 15 miles from the main base.

“The townhouses in the main base housing will be used until such time as the Hario mid-rise and Fiddlers Green are ready for occupancy, which could be about a year,” Benton said.

That’s OK by Petty Officer 1st Class Gertrude Rhodes. Now on the base housing waiting list, she lives in one of the RPP units and has no complaints.

“I like it very much there. It is new … and has all the Western features as well as very good insulation. It’s only 15 minutes from the base,” she said. “I don’t feel like it’s any hardship at all.”

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