Heinrich Joins Haaland, Warren Bill To Address Poor Health And Safety Standards In New Mexico’s Military Housing

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 30, 2019) – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined U.S. Representative Deb Haaland’s (D-N.M.) and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act, a comprehensive bill to address a series of disturbing reports revealing unsafe and unsanitary conditions in privatized, on-base housing for military personnel and their families. Haaland unveiled the bill last week alongside U.S. Senator Warren (D-Mass.). Other Senate cosponsors include Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The full text of the bill can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can found HERE.

“I find it deeply disturbing that in New Mexico, and around the world, our men and women in uniform and their families have lived in military installations with substandard living conditions,” said Heinrich. “This bill is a common-sense proposal to address the poor health and safety standards of these living conditions and to ensure that housing contractors abide by the same building codes that federal, state, and local governments have put in place to protect homeowners. There is simply no reason military housing should be exempt from these standards.”
“I’m pleased to have Senator Heinrich’s support for this important bill that my staff has been working on since we heard that several families had experienced problems with private housing contractors at Kirtland Air Force Base. His staff joined with my district staff to meet with Kirtland families and base leadership to learn about the issues,” said Haaland, a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. “Military families should never have to worry if their housing is safe and up to code, but I have heard disturbing reports from families in my district and across the country about families dealing with mold, infestation, and structural problems. This bill will hold private housing companies to a higher standard and protect military families so that our service members don’t have to worry about their families’ safety while doing the important work of protecting our country and all of us.”
In 1996, Congress established the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI), which allowed the Department of Defense (DOD) to partner with private sector developers who would own, operate, and maintain military family housing and, in return, have access to federal direct loans, loan guarantees, and other incentives.
series of recent investigative reports by Reuters revealed that servicemembers and their families who live in on-base housing owned by MHPI developers have been exposed to lead paint, vermin infestations, fecal and urine trails, bursting pipes, flooding, mold growth, collapsed ceilings, electric and fire hazards, and other substandard living conditions as a result of inadequate maintenance by housing companies.
The Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act would take several steps to fix these problems by: (1) granting the Secretary of Defense clear authority to ensure that privatized military housing providers are meeting the terms of their contracts; (2) giving military family tenants greater rights to ensure their homes are safe, clean and meet all appropriate standards of habitability and providing them with tools to learn about problems with housing providers before they sign a lease; (3) ensuring that military families who developed medical conditions as a result of unsafe housing receive appropriate compensation and medical care; and (4) providing greater transparency and accountability for the 50-year housing contracts each company signs with the Department of Defense.

The legislation would: 

  • Increase Oversight by requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish formal written guidance for all housing contracts, and requiring the Secretary to withhold funds, and ultimately rescind the contract, if the housing provider breaches contract terms.
  • Establish Tenant Protections by allowing tenants to withhold their Basic Allowance for Housing and approve all maintenance repairs performed on their residence.
  • Provide Transparency by requiring the Secretary of Defense to establish a public complaint database accessible by all tenants, requiring the Secretary to include a provision in contracts with housing providers that they address all such complaints, and requiring improved transparency in the contracts that housing developers sign with DOD to provide on-base housing.
  • Ensure Medical Care for Affected Military Families by directing DOD to establish a health registry for all servicemembers and families and establishing a presumption of service-connected disability for servicemembers and lifetime medical care for dependents.
  • Strengthen Ethics by prohibiting all senior DOD officials from owning any investments in an entity owned or controlled by a privatized housing provider (mutual funds excluded).
The Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act is endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association, and the Military Housing Advocacy Network.
The full text of the bill can be found HERE. A summary of the bill can found HERE.