Warren's plan to fix shoddy veterans housing — by holding private developers accountable

Warren's plan to fix shoddy veterans housing — by holding private developers accountable
Elizabeth Warren/Shutterstock
Elizabeth Warren/Shutterstock
Election '20

Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a column on Sunday in theLas Vegas Sun, titled “Military families don’t deserve shoddy homes.” In it she diagnoses a problem facing many veteran families living on bases throughout the country, being “free marketed,” out of good homes by the privatization of our military home developments.

Over the past 20 years, a handful of companies have taken over 99% of domestic military family housing, acting as the landlord on military bases. Every month, the federal government pays them rent directly out of a service member’s paycheck, along with various bonuses and incentive fees. The risk is low, and the profits are enormous. But this has turned out to be a lousy bargain for the approximately one-third of military families — about 700,000 people — who live in these homes. Instead of maintaining and repairing the properties, some private developers cut corners in pursuit of short-term profits.

In March, the subject of whether or not the military privatization of housing development should continue came to the forefront as reports of terribly cheap and unhealthy conditions existed at privately developed military houses throughout the country. The Military Times reported that while military officials didn’t say they wanted to do away with the privatized system of housing development, they believed that there needed to be more stringent (and enforceable) oversight—something clearly lacking at this time. Warren points this out and also how personal and important our country’s treatment of its military families and veterans must be.

My three older brothers served, so I know the responsibility we have to our service members, veterans and their families. The sacrifices they make are significant — constant moves, repeated deployments, missed holidays and family events. When we fail to provide them with a safe place to live, we have broken our promise to them.

Warren has a few ideas on how to deal with these issues.

I have a plan to improve military housing and protect our military families from abuse. It starts with accountability, and it’s pretty simple. A private developer should not receive bonuses paid with taxpayer dollars if it fails to meet the terms of its contract. And if a developer repeatedly fails in its obligation to our military families, that contract should be terminated. Under my plan, every base would have a housing office staffed with advocates for the service member. That office would have independent authority to inspect housing to ensure it is safe, clean and meets all state and local requirements.

This seems like a no-brainer. Sadly, it’s the kind of policy that truly falls under the heading of Things you should be shocked weren’t happening already. As part of her plan, Warren argues that the United States must be willing to take care of military members who have fallen sick with sometimes chronic illnesses as a result of shoddy military housing exposing them to toxins.

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