Raw sewage. Fraying wiring. Lead in the water. Pest infestations.
Those are just some of the charming amenities on offer in privatized military housing, which makes up the bulk of on-base housing thanks to policy changes dating back to the 1990s. The Pentagon started turning to privatized housing when it had trouble keeping up with the needs of our armed services, and it turns out the Pentagon made a mistake.
A new report has nearly 17,000 servicemembers from coast to coast (and Hawaii too!) recounting horrors about their on-base housing. They say they're living in dangerously unsanitary conditions that cause serious health problems, including, in some cases, miscarriages, cancer, congenital anomalies, and developmental delays. Even pets are getting sick!
For too many years, developers have been saying everything is fine while blowing off complaints about dangerous living conditions. Servicemembers give up in frustration, or don't report in the first place because they fear retaliation for daring to speak out.
We're calling on the Pentagon to take action: Partner with the advocacy groups fighting to improve safety to look into this situation, conduct a comprehensive survey of base housing and develop evidence-based approaches to fix the problem.
These might include renegotiating contracts and rethinking incentives for developers providing base housing, along with creating a clearly codified and enforced tenants' bill of rights for military families.
There's no reason for people who serve our country to be living in filthy, toxic, dangerous conditions that imperil them and their families — no one should live in fear of their own home, or experience a lifetime of regret because they drank water from the tap while pregnant.
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