Today, Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Katie Porter (D-CA), and United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Military Housing Readiness Council Act, legislation that would ensure oversight and accountability on safe housing conditions for service members and military families.
The legislation would create a Military Housing Readiness Council comprised of Department of Defense (DoD) officials, service members, military families, and military housing experts to ensure ongoing oversight of deficiencies in privatized military housing. The Council's mandate includes responsibility for full implementation of a tenants' bill of rights, completion of the public complaint database, and public reporting on all its activities. The bill was included in the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.
"Our military families sacrifice enough. The least we can do is provide housing to them that's safe and hazard-free," said Representative Ryan. "I'm proud to support the Military Housing Readiness Council Act to provide transparency and oversight over military housing, eliminate neglect and mismanagement, and ensure our servicemembers don't have to worry about their families' housing while they are serving our nation."
"Servicemembers and their families make incredible sacrifices for our country," said Representative Porter. "We should be matching our gratitude for military families with action. Congress has repeatedly passed legislation to improve military housing conditions, but it's clear we need to do more to hold private companies accountable to the law. I'm proud to co-lead this legislation that'll boost oversight and better protect families in private military housing."
"For too long, many of our service members and military families have lived in unsafe privatized militaryhousing with black mold, collapsed roofs, or exposed electrical wires because DoD is falling behind in proper oversight and providing safe housing to these service members," said Senator Warren. "The bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act will create a Council with a strong mandate to conduct oversight of military housing, collect public complaints, and report its work to Congress -- ensuring that military families receive the safe housing conditions they deserve."
"I have long been a proponent of safe and accessible housing for all military personnel and military families. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to establish a Military Housing Readiness Council within the DoD to make recommendations regarding privatized housing and support services and monitor all compliance with current law," said Senator Tillis.
Specifically, the Military Housing Readiness Council Act would do the following:
· Provide Enhanced Oversight
o Reviews and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Defense regarding policies for privatized military housing, including inspection practices, resident surveys, landlord payment of medical bills for residents of housing units that have not maintained minimum standards of habitability, and access to maintenance work order systems.
o Monitors the Department of Defense's compliance with and implementation of statutory improvements to policies for privatized military housing, including the Military HousingPrivatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights and the public military housing complaint database.
· Regularly Engage Stakeholders
o Draws membership from the Department of Defense, every military service, officer and enlisted service members, spouses of officers and enlisted members, a representative of the International Code Council, a representative of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, and other members to be selected by the chairs and ranking members of the armed services committees.
o Requires the Council to meet no fewer than four times a year.
o Makes additional recommendations to improve collaboration, awareness, and promotion of accurate and timely information about privatized military housing, including accommodations available through the Exceptional Family Member Program.
· Provide Transparency
o Requires annual reporting to the Secretary and the congressional defense committees on the Council's activities, including analyses of complaints of tenants of housing units, data received on maintenance response time and completion of maintenance requests, assessments of dispute resolution processes, assessments of housing inspections, and any survey results conducted by the Council.
The Military Housing Readiness Council Act is endorsed by the Military Officers Association of America, the National Military Family Association, and Armed Forces Housing Advocates.
"Establishing a Military Housing Readiness Council will provide servicemembers and military spouses with an opportunity to provide important feedback to Congress and DoD senior leaders," said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret), President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America."This Council will increase transparency, support accountability of the resolution process instituted by the Tenant Bill of Rights, and report on the impacts and trust in privatized housing."
"The Military Housing Readiness Council Act will allow for real substantive conversations to occur in the public view about the state of military housing. AFHA is proud to support the Military Housing Readiness Council Act and look forward to seeing how the implementation of it can change the narrative surrounding military housing," said Rachel Christian, Founder and Chief Legislative Officer of the Armed Forces Housing Advocates.