Representative Levin, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Private Housing for Military Families

March 14, 2019
Press Release
The Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act is Levin’s First Bill as a Member of Congress

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, his first bill as a Member of Congress. The legislation would increase accountability and oversight over private contractor-provided housing for military families, which has suffered from serious health, safety, and environmental problems. The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Katie Hill (D-CA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).

The bill was introduced after a Reuters investigation found some instances of poor living conditions in privatized military housing at Camp Pendleton and military bases throughout the country, including service members and their families living in homes with persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations.

“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice to keep our country safe, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. The last thing they should have to worry about is housing that jeopardizes their health and safety,” said Levin. “It is unacceptable that some military families around the country have little or no recourse when private contractors provide substandard housing. This bipartisan legislation is an important step in holding private housing companies accountable and empowering military families, and I will continue to work with members of both parties to support America’s servicemembers.”

“Service members and their families sacrifice immensely to protect our freedom, and they deserve quality housing,” said Fitzpatrick. “These new guidelines seek to ensure that health and safety issues are properly addressed while putting reckless contractors on notice.”

“My district is rooted in service, and the military families in our community deserve a safe, clean, and reliable place to call home,” said Hill. “This bill would ensure our service members and their families get the accountability they deserve from private contractor-provided housing. I have spent my career addressing the issue of housing affordability and I couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside my friend Mike Levin and co-sponsor this critical bipartisan legislation.”

“It’s unacceptable that our service members and military families are dealing with hazardous conditions in their own homes,” said Luria. “Our bravest Americans are protecting this nation and deserve good housing, health care, and quality of life. Military families should never have to settle for less. This bill is an important step toward correcting a problem I hope we never encounter again.”

“The health of our military personnel and their families should never be compromised due to contractor incompetence or mismanagement. Unfortunately, reports have unearthed unacceptable living conditions in privatized military housing—including mold, water leaks, and rodent infestations,” said Spanberger. “Our bipartisan bill would hold contractors accountable, stop them from imposing unfair damage fees, and ensure they fix hazardous conditions. The safety of our military families is an issue that should transcend party affiliation, and I look forward to fighting to advance our legislation.”

The legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees from poorly performing contractors.

Provisions of the bill include:

  • Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs. 
  • Housing costs: Ensures service members don’t have to pay a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
  • Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
  • Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices. 
  • Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.

The legislation was originally introduced by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA). The bill is supported by the Military Officers Association of America and the National Military Family Association.

###