The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report on the Department of Defense’s (DOD) oversight of the privatized military housing program.
The report evaluates the implementation of statutory requirements aimed at improving assistance to residents, oversight of privatized housing, and holding private housing companies accountable for poor performance.
Private companies own and operate 99 percent of family housing at domestic military installations, totalling approximately 203,300 units. Since 2019, questions have been raised about assistance available to residents, poor housing conditions, and private company performance.
According to the report, while DOD has taken steps to implement statutory requirements, gaps in guidance and training remain. For example, residents are entitled to enter formal dispute resolution processes to resolve issues with private housing companies, but the guidance provided lacks detailed information, such as how and when to file a formal dispute. Military housing officials have not received adequate guidance or training for assisting residents in the process.
Similarly, DOD provides residents with access to a tenant advocate, but the military departments have not clearly identified the roles and responsibilities of these personnel or communicated useful information to residents about how they can and cannot use the tenant advocates.
Furthermore, while DOD is conducting inspections of privatized homes prior to resident occupancy, the report found that DOD has not developed clear or consistent inspection standards, and the military departments have not provided adequate inspector training. This has resulted in inconsistencies in how inspectors rate homes, resulting in homes with similar issues receiving different ratings and has increased project costs, according to private housing company representatives.
The report includes 19 recommendations for DOD to improve the privatized housing program, including clarifying guidance and training related to efforts to increase assistance to residents, improving home inspection standards and training, developing additional guidance, and training for tenant advocates, and establishing clear and consistent standards for rating the condition of privatized homes.
DOD generally concurred with the recommendations and described some related actions that it plans to take to address the identified weaknesses in the privatized housing program.
By implementing these recommendations, DOD can more effectively address the concerns raised by residents and ensure that the privatized housing program operates in a way that fully meets congressional intent.