TRAVIS AFB -- It was supposed to improve the quality of life for service members, but the move to let private corporations take over housing on military bases decades ago has led to a long list of problems.
The housing at Travis Air Force Base, owned by Balfour Beatty, is no exception.
For military spouse Lindsey Chaney and other families, their houses on Travis AFB don’t feel like home.
“It’s health and safety. (The) fire door, the issues with the window, mold, having to pull back carpet on my own,” Chaney said. “I got so upset I gathered towels up that were sopping wet and went into housing and I just dropped them on the floor and I cried.”
It’s been three years of frustration for Chaney -- from shoddy repairs, to unanswered work orders, to not knowing where to turn.
“One person says one thing, another person says another,” Chaney said.
Chaney created a Facebook page to voice her concerns and to let others know they could do the same.
“It’s not all fun and games over here. The world needs to see what we deal with,” Chaney said.
Posts like Chaney’s, demanding something to be done, finally got Washington, D.C. to pay attention.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Davis, Fairfield, Yuba City, says the U.S. military deserves better.
“I think the problem is that the issue was ignored. The base commanders had other things to worry about and they didn't worry about the base housing, it was privatized. The private companies – always interested in the bottom line, interested in their profit,” Garamendi said.
Garamendi serves as chairman of the House Readiness Subcommittee. He has had two hearings about the hazardous conditions.
“The Department of Defense and each of the services have been given a swift kick and now they’re working diligently to address what is a national problem,” Garamendi said.
He says a tenants’ bill of rights is in the works, which would give military families more protection and the same rights civilians have off-base.
“The difference is they have the legal right to withhold their rent,” Chaney said. “They can take them to court.”
Garamendi says when contacts with the privatized housing companies come up for renewal, there will be “a rebalancing.”
While federal officials take steps to fix the problem, Travis Air Force Base and Balfour set up a hotline, conducted housing satisfaction surveys and organized town hall meetings for military families to voice frustrations.
Balfour’s progress in completing work orders is being tracked, with reports sent to military leadership.
When reached for comment, Balfour sent FOX40 a statement:
We continue to work with our Air Force partners to identify opportunities and implement solutions to improve privatized military housing and ensure all residents have access to a quality home supported by the highest level of responsive customer service. These efforts have included working closely with Travis Air Force Base leadership and the housing office to thoroughly address all issues and concerns identified in the recent Air Force housing review. One particular issue our team has been working to address is water leaks around the sliding doors in select homes. We currently have a comprehensive project underway to address this issue that includes complete door replacement.
While there were no health/safety hazards identified within family housing at Travis Air Force Base as part of this review, every resident issue, concern and question is important to our team. We handle every service request according to an established policy and protocol, including guidance from our Environmental department and engagement with third-party specialty contractors when necessary. We have also initiated a 100% follow-up policy on all completed service requests to ensure that all work has been completed to the resident’s satisfaction and there are no further issues or concerns. We are also utilizing the third-party resident survey company SatisFacts to issue online surveys to capture resident feedback after move-in and all completed service requests.
Balfour Beatty Communities has several initiatives underway across our entire military housing portfolio aimed at improving maintenance responsiveness and quality of workmanship, providing additional training to resident-facing employees to ensure they are providing an exceptional customer service experience, as well as putting resources in place to ensure our residents are being heard, receiving the information they need, and getting their issues and concerns promptly resolved to their satisfaction.
At Travis Family Homes, we are in the process of hiring a Regional Facility Manager and Quality Assurance Specialist who will bolster our efforts to provide additional levels of oversight and quality control on all service requests, as well as more robust training and development opportunities for our Maintenance team members. We are also actively recruiting to fill a new Resident Engagement Specialist position at Travis Family Homes. This staff member is solely dedicated to customer engagement and ensuring our residents are being heard and getting prompt and complete answers to their questions and concerns. As part of their aim to deliver world-class customer service, they may assist residents with questions about their home, providing information on the status of work orders, or even just helping new residents get to know the resources and amenities available in our community and the surrounding area. This position also focuses on resident education efforts, ensuring they know how to effectively manage their home, identify any safety or maintenance issues, and notify our maintenance team so we can deliver a prompt response.
We have also made efforts to more extensively promote our online Resident Portal (with associated smart phone app), which allows residents to seamlessly submit and track service requests 24/7 from their computer or mobile device. The Resident Portal also offers residents the ability to view community announcements, communicate with our team, and access community policies and forms, service schedules, health and safety information and information on schools and other area resources.
The top priority for our company and all of our military property teams remains taking care of our residents and making sure they are satisfied with all aspects of their living experience with us, from the condition of their home to the quality of their interaction with every member of our team. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with our Air Force partners with this singular objective in mind.
Changes are underway, but for Chaney, it’s now a waiting game.
“I just wish it would be faster. They just need to go ahead and say, 'This is done,'" she said. “It’s got to be a safe place, secure where we don’t have to worry that when our active duty spouses go, we’re OK.”
A new bill tracking the issue was recently introduced by Rep. Mark Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano.
The Ensuring Safe Housing For Our Military Act would increase accountability and oversight of privately-run military housing sites nationwide.
Cassandra Webb filed this report.