U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced, following his push, the just-passed Senate National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) includes numerous provisions to improve privatized military housing at West Point and other New York bases, like Fort Drum. Schumer explained that in recent months, news reports have uncovered a litany of serious hazards to human health and public safety in privatized housing facilities on military bases across the country, with West Point and Fort Drum specifically grappling with issues such as mold and failing water systems.
To address these issues, Schumer successfully fought to pass privatized military housing provisions in the Senate NDAA, such as a tenants’ bill of rights, a dispute resolution process for tenants, and boosted Department of Defense (DOD) oversight policies, after his visit to the West Point campus last week. Schumer explained that the men and women who risk their lives to protect the United States deserve the peace of mind of knowing that their health and well-being – and that of their families – won’t be damaged by their housing and called on the House of Representatives to ensure that all of the privatized housing provisions are in its version of the NDAA.
“At West Point, Fort Drum and other military installations across the nation, privatized housing for our service members and their families is very clearly not up to snuff. These heroes deserve the best standard of living possible, but are left to deal with hazards like black mold and other health threats and nuisances,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I fought tooth and nail to pass numerous military housing provisions and oversight policies in the NDAA, from a tenants’ bill of rights to funding for Department of Defense housing staff, which just cleared the Senate. This bill will ensure our nation’s finest have access to the finest housing available, and I urge the House to pass it as soon as possible.”
At the moment, West Point has a total of 825 privatized family housing units on campus, 74 of which are vacant. Schumer explained that to date, over 70 homes have been found to have multiple complex issues, such as water infiltration and mold. Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes, which is a partnership between developer Lendlease and U.S. Department of Army, manages 3,974 units on Fort Drum. In February, about 80 soldiers and their spouses spoke at an on-post town hall about their concerns of living in housing at Fort Drum. While the installation and private housing companies continue to work on remediation plans at both West Point and Fort Drum, there are serious concerns that tenants do not have timely access to inspection results. In some cases, families have had to relocate while remediation takes place, but have not received fair compensation for damaged household items. Schumer said the Senate NDAA addresses many of these concerns and includes a number of provisions to boost the quality of military installations’ privatized housing. First, Schumer said, the bill authorizes $301.8 million for housing personnel. This funding would be used to hire more staff that would then conduct thorough inspections, oversight and planning of the military’s privatized housing stock. Additionally, the NDAA includes a privatized military housing tenants’ bill of rights. The tenants’ bill of rights would establish a sorely-needed dispute resolution process for families to receive help in addressing the hazards they may have in their homes. The NDAA would also establish measures that instate new quality assurance and quality control measures, including additional mandatory health and hazard inspections.