Majority of military families unhappy with on-base housing

by Kimberly Greene23 May 2019

More than half of military families are unhappy with their housing conditions on base, according to a detailed analysis of a survey that the nonprofit Military Family Advisory Network conducted of military families living on bases through the U.S.

The results of the survey, which gathered responses from 15,000 families living in 46 states and 158 bases, were initially shared in February, but a closer look revealed some extreme conditions that military tenants endure, including mold, poor maintenance, and “excessive filth”.

Fifty-five percent of families who responded gave a negative view of their base housing. Sixteen percent of respondents gave positive marks, and the remainder of the responses were neutral.

These results differ greatly from those garnered from polling done by private military housing operators, whose annual satisfaction rates are often above 90%. The online survey was conducted over a one-week period ending February 6. Since then, the military has put some significant reforms in place, so polling may not reflect those efforts.

Given the dissatisfaction with military housing, there could be a huge opportunity for mortgage originators to help servicemembers get a mortgage instead of renting. Although frequency of movement could be a detriment to buying a home, VA expert Ryan Sawyer says that the biggest barrier to homeownership for members of the military is under-education.

“When our military members are in service, this is pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole if even on the totem pole as far as education. It’s not used for recruiting purposes, and it’s not used for exiting the military either, they don’t really bring up the home loan benefit,” he said.

Instead, the focus is on schooling and benefits that veterans could be eligible for, such as disability claims and healthcare.

Sawyer is a branch manager and vice president of mortgage lending with Guaranteed Rate, and has been educating veterans on their mortgage options for more than 10 years. Whether his borrowers are currently in the military or have been out for decades, he finds that most of them don’t know about certain aspects of the home loan benefit.

“They are grossly uneducated on the home loan benefit and how easy it is to qualify. There’s myths out there that they may read online or get from friends or family or realtors,’ Sawyer said. “I found they mortgage qualify months if not years before they actually start looking.”

The Military Family Advisory Network provided the more detailed results to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month. Committee members have sponsored legislation to create a tenant bill of rights, penalize landlords who do not quickly fix hazards and mandate regular and unannounced spot inspections of base homes, Reuters reported.