Sen. Warner wants answers from firms that manage privatized military housing
By BILL ATKINSON | The Progress-Index, Petersburg, Va. | Published: May 13, 2019
PETERSBURG, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Sen. Mark R. Warner is giving four companies that manage privatized housing at state military installations, including Fort Lee, until later this month to come up with solutions to remedy what he called "many of the deplorable conditions" in those communities.
In separate letters to Hunt Military Communities, Balfour Beatty Communities, Clark Realty Capital, and Lincoln Military Housing — who among them are responsible for residences on at least 10 posts in the commonwealth — Warner, D-Va., gives each group until May 24 to respond to him about their plans to fix the issues he brings up in the letters. In late April, Warner toured the housing communities and met with military family members to discuss problems ranging from pest and mold infestations to poor communications between landlords and tenants.
Hunt manages 1,500 military residences at Fort Lee and 1,400 homes at Langley Air Force Base near Hampton. BBC manages 1,100 homes at Fort Story in Virginia Beach and Fort Eustis in Newport News. Clark is responsible for 2,100 homes at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. Lincoln manages 5,700 residences at Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout Hampton Roads.
In the letter to Hunt, Warner noted four areas of concern he has as a result of the tours and meetings:
- unqualified maintenance and remediation contractors;
- excessive fees and charges;
- air quality, including reports of mold and mold spores triggering allergic reactions in some children, and lead and carbon monoxide poisoning; and
- poor communication between residents and the management companies over reporting issues.
In his visit to Fort Lee, Warner heard complaints from residents about how they were told the houses were in "move-in ready' condition, only to find out they had problems with infestations and bacterial growth. One family told him Hunt's solution to remediate exposure of laminate-flooring adhesive was to apply "Magic Eraser," an over-the-counter cleanser marketed under the "Mr. Clean" brand.
Another family complained how a contractor the company sent to one home for mold remediation failed to lay down plastic before removing the mold, causing it to spread into their furniture and carpeting.
"We must resolve these systemic issues in the military-housing privatization program for the benefit of our men and women in uniform," Warner wrote.
For the mold-remediation and air-quality issues, Warner asked Hunt to consider "clear standards" for offering more inspections and testing, especially if requested by the family's doctor.
"Given the absence of [Environmental Protection Agency] and federal standards around mold and mold spores, will you work to implement clear standards established by the military services to ensure healthy air quality?" his letter stated.
Finally, Warner asked Hunt to "significantly improve" overall military-housing quality at Fort Lee "so that we are not in this situation again in another seven years."
Warner is co-sponsoring legislation calling for closer regulation of companies that manage military housing.
A spokeswoman for El Paso, Texas-based Hunt Military Properties said in a statement that Hunt takes the matters raised by Warner "extremely seriously" and holds itself "accountable" and committed to making the improvements.
"Hunt Companies and Fort Lee Family Housing are in receipt of the senator's letter," Hunt vice president of corporate communications Cindy Gersch said in the statement. "For the past few months, we have been taking actions to address the items noted in the letter and we remain fully committed to improving the resident experience across Hunt's portfolio.'
Gersch said Hunt will respond to Warner's letter by his requested deadline.
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