Base housing residents look for answers during privatization meeting

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE -- Sheppard's housing officials are a little more than a month away from turning over control of housing units to a contractor, and that has many Sheppard families excited and a few others concerned. 

Housing residents were able to ask questions at a town hall meeting Oct. 12 at the base theater. Most questions were readily answered by GMH Military Housing Regional Community Manager Stacie LaFontaine, but there were a few that will require some research or discussions. 

Questions came from a variety of groups including those moving into base housing, those moving out and those content with where they are. But, Ms. LaFontaine said at some point, each house at Sheppard will be vacated in phases for demolition or remodeling. 

All housing residents are required to have a one-year lease signed with GMH by Dec. 1. Residents who choose not to sign the lease must move from base housing by Nov. 30. If a resident chooses not to sign a lease and move off base, they are required to notify GMH and sign a release. The housing office will cut move orders for a government-paid move. 

The Air Force will fund the move, and current residents are also eligible for a dislocation allowance to help in establishing new services such as utility hook-ups. Eligibility for partial dislocation allowance ends upon transfer of government ownership to GMH.
Some current housing residents had an issue with the timeline because they said it would interfere with the timing of the basic allowance for housing to begin if they moved off base. 

The GMH representative pointed out that any move prior to Dec. 1 was the choice of the housing resident and forced moves wouldn't begin until the Dec. 1 deadline for signing the lease. 

For those staying on base, Ms. LaFontaine said monthly housing payments will be paid in arrears, or paid at the end of each month for the previous month's occupancy. Each resident's current basic allowance for housing will cover the rent, plus gas and electric costs. GMH will cover sewer, water and garbage pick-up costs. Residents will be responsible for telephone, Internet and cable TV fees, just as they are now. 

As housing units are remodeled or built and units are metered, gas and electric costs will be averaged for each type of house over a 12-month period. After that, residents will receive bills for actual use of gas and electricity and won't pay unless they exceed the average use rate for their type of housing. 

However, if residents go over their allotted amount, they could have to pay out of their pocket to make up the difference. This change over may not occur for 24 to 36 months after ownership transfer. 

Once GMH identifies a house for demolition, families will be relocated to another house on base if they choose to continue living in a GMH facility. The Air Force will pay for the first move, but GMH would pay for the second move, Ms. LaFontaine said. That's something she's trying to avoid. 

"Our plan calls for one move," she said. A second move has been rare in her experience. 

With force shaping measures taking place roughly the same time as the transition, some questioned why they would have to sign a one-year lease knowing they will separate or retire before the lease expires. Ms. LaFontaine said military members should take their separation or retirement orders to the GMH office to show they are getting out of the Air Force. 

Everyone living in base housing from Dec. 1 forward must sign a lease, regardless of how long the resident stays, Ms. LaFontaine said. But, she said GMH will work with those who must move within that first year so the transition is as smooth as possible. 

In addition to questions, officials also addressed the different phases housing areas would go through during the demolition, reconstruction and renovation projects. There are currently 1,167 homes on Sheppard. Of those, 500 will be renovated while 636 will be demolished. 

GMH will build 379 new homes for a grand total of 910 homes once all phases are complete. The renovation and construction of homes should take about seven years.
For more information regarding the housing privatization process including FAQs, floor plans and more, go to http://www.sheppard.af.mil/Housing/housing_privatization.asp.