Soldiers getting caught in Grafenwöhr’s housing crunch
October 3, 2006
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Demand for housing from incoming soldiers and civilians has forced Army officials to expand their search area.
Last month, the garrison’s housing office ditched a plan to house new arrivals within a 30-minute drive of post and is now offering troops homes as far as 45 minutes away, said Dwane Watsek, Grafenwöhr director of public works.
The arrival of thousands of troops and families from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment has put increased pressure on local housing, he said.
“It was getting hard to find places [close to post] readily available. We want to get people close, but we don’t want people to wait in the guest house,” he said.
Houses offered to new arrivals, “may not be the house of their dreams,” Watsek said. “But we need to get them housed.”
Despite the change, which Watsek said is temporary and meets the U.S. Army Europe standard, soldiers coming here can expect good housing on post or close to base, he said.
“If you are a soldier coming to Graf you will be offered state-of-the-art housing with U.S. appliances, 110-watt voltage and a single-car garage in less than the average USAREUR wait time (13 days),” he said.
“Efficient Basing Grafenwöhr will bring about 500 more units (for soldiers and their families) on line next year, including 400 at Netzaberg and 100 off post.”
But for civilians the housing situation is more complex, Watsek said.
“Houses in Grafenwöhr are in high demand. It is first-come, first-served,” he said, adding that he lived in a hotel for months waiting for his own “very nice” house in Grafenwöhr.
Neville Gallimore, a Department of Army civilian range control worker, and his wife, Brigitta, said Monday that they’ve had no luck finding a house near Grafenwöhr since moving there from Fort Hood, Texas, in August.
“When we first got here, the housing office showed us some things that were very substandard. There would be oil smell all through the house or in the basement there would be mold. It has been pretty much all junk,” he said.
The housing office even offered them a “castle” that the couple said had no kitchen and was so large it would have cost massive amounts to heat.
A problem for the couple, who are a renting a one-bedroom flat near Grafenwöhr, is that they have two dogs, Jolie and Dixie, Brigitta Gallimore said. Some landlords do not allow dogs and others require the couple to fence their yard at their own expense, she said.
An advertisement in the local newspaper seeking housing got only one reply, from a German real estate agent who wanted 1,800 euros a month in rent for a house in Vilseck, she said.
Neville advised civilians looking at jobs in Grafenwöhr to think twice.
“Don’t come until they advertise that they have those ... units available [at Netzaberg],” he said.
The couple also is working with German real estate agents, who typically charge two-months’ rent as a finder’s fee.
One of the agents, Jurgen Burger, said he moved to the Grafenwöhr/Vilseck area six months ago after 20-years of house- hunting for Americans in the Würzburg area.
“Our American customers told us a year ago that we should come here,” he said.
Most of Burger’s clients are civilians, such as engineers and teachers, but he’s also found houses for officers who want to live off post, he said.
The housing situation in Grafenwöhr/ Vilseck is very tight, Burger said.
“It is really hard to find nice places. There is a lot of junk around, but if you want nice housing, it is really not easy,” he said.