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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Base housing officials have signed up two Japanese developers to participate in a new rental program that would ensure American renters Western amenities and also greatly reduce the traditionally huge move-in fees.

In return, the Japanese owners and landlords should be stuck with far fewer rent delinquencies because rents for those in the program would be deducted automatically each month from renters’ bank accounts.

“I think it’s going to be great,” said Gail Washburn, regional housing manager for Commander Naval Forces Japan, who initiated a similar program in San Diego.

The new Rental Partnership Program will, if it catches on with local landlords and owners, solve a variety of off-base housing problems, Washburn said. First, rental units in the program all would have major appliances — including ovens and washers and dryers — as well as heat, air conditioning and other Western-style amenities. Many of the 2,500 or so units Americans currently choose from do not.

And although the base usually provides those appliances, it’s subject to budget considerations. Earlier this year, for instance, bachelors were told they’d have to either buy or rent their own appliances. That’s been fixed, Washburn said, but could happen again.

And if local owners supply appliances, that frees up more base appliances, so waiting lists for items such as kerosene heaters would drop.

Second, move-in fees would be reduced by half, to only the first and last months’ rent, Washburn said. Such fees now add up to about four months’ rent and include a fee for the leasing agent and a fee for the owner.

That’s the part of the program Washburn still is waiting to see if local leasing agents and owners will support. She hopes the guaranteed rent and the increased oversight by the base of rental agreements will be a sufficient enticement.

The automatic rent deduction also would benefit sailors and other renters, Washburn said.

“They don’t have to go to the exchange to pay their rent,” she said. And when sailors deploy, they wouldn’t have to make elaborate arrangements for someone else to pay their rent. “When sailors are out to sea they have enough to worry about,” she said. “They don’t need to worry about rents.”

Washburn and other officials are negotiating with some of the 100 or so real estate agencies that do business with Americans associated with the base. She said she hopes to have the program up and running, with units available, within six months.

In the meantime, the two developers who’ve agreed to be in the program initially are planning to have some 25 to 50 units on line by year’s end, she said.

Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, officials also are trying to implement the program.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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