Privatization comes to air force base housing in Mountain Home

Balfour Beatty looks to raze dilapidated homes and build new units with new amenities.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJuly 28, 2013 

A British firm on Thursday will take over management of 844 single-family houses and duplexes and 680 dormitory rooms at Mountain Home Air Force Base.

The switch is part of a nationwide move to privatize military housing in hopes of cutting expenses for the government, to encourage better upkeep of existing units and promote construction of modern homes and apartments.

Balfour Beatty Communities, part of a century-old company based in London with U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania, will manage housing at Mountain Home and at five other Air Force bases: Minot, Grand Forks and Cavalier in North Dakota, Ellsworth in South Dakota and Cannon in New Mexico.

Overall, Balfour Beatty operates more than 44,000 military homes in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

“We couldn’t be more excited to begin operations for family housing,” said Amanda Snoey-Holladay, Balfour’s Mountain Home community manager.

The company plans to demolish 180 dilapidated homes built between 1948 and 1958, construct 60 new homes and renovate three others, said 2nd Lt. Rebecca Ennis, Mountain Home Air Force Base spokeswoman. The rest of the existing housing was built between 1990 and 2007, she said.

The improvement project also will include the addition of a new community center, lighted basketball and tennis courts, sand volleyball court, soccer and softball fields, playgrounds, covered pavilions with picnic tables and barbecue grills and a nature path.

Balfour Beatty also will provide lawn mowing and snow removal from driveways and sidewalks. Tenants were previously responsible for those tasks. Residents also will receive free renter insurance coverage.

Base officials expect a smooth transition.

“The partnership between the government and the privatization owner is a win-win. We are partners with BBC and will be jointly located in our housing office,” base housing official P.J. Brown said.

Single airmen of lower ranks who have been in the service for less than three years are required to live on base. They reside in six dormitories. Other personnel have the choice of living on base or within 60 miles of the base.

The privatization project began in 1996, after the Department of Defense concluded that more than 50 percent of the 257,000 housing units owned by the military on and off bases needed to be renovated or replaced because of longstanding neglect that went back three decades. It also addressed a shortage of affordable private-sector housing.

The Department of Defense estimated it would cost $25 billion and take 20 years for the government to solve the housing problem and officials said that was unacceptable. The department concluded private companies could do the job cheaper and faster.

The government expects to save 10 percent over the 50-year life of the contracts.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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