JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Amid the turmoil of the global COVID-19 pandemic, improving the quality of military family housing remains a top priority for the Army, Installation Management Command and Residential Communities Initiative companies.
This was demonstrated at a three-day summit here June 15-17 where Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, commanding general of IMCOM, hosted Army senior leaders, garrison commanders from around the globe, and privatized housing company executives. He sought to further integrate their actions in anticipation of a summer surge in Permanent Change of Station moves that will require thousands of housing occupancy transfers across the Army.
“Summer PCS moves have been delayed and will be compressed into a shorter timeline,” emphasized Gabram during his opening comments. “This housing summit will facilitate quality of life for PCSing Soldiers and families during this summer’s move cycle by confirming installation-level plans to support housing transitions.”
Gabram stated the theme for the summit is “Move Forward Together,” a phrase that captures the growing integration of Army and RCI leaders on behalf of military families.
“This integration is vital if we are to turn houses at a quality rate during the summer surge period,” said Lt. Gen. Ed Daly, deputy commanding general of Army Materiel Command.
Gabram instructed each garrison commander and their local RCI partner to jointly update the group on their plans to address the backlog of routine housing work orders, post-COVID-19-related issues impacting this year’s summer surge, and housing scorecards that will provide a common framework to view privatized housing across the Army.
At Fort Lee, work order reviews are conducted weekly, briefed Garrison Commander Col. Hollie Martin. Each Friday, a recap of all open repair requests is shared with unit leaders. On Wednesday, Hunt Housing Communities provides the latest update on emergency and urgent service calls.
“We share this report with our military leaders,” she noted. “During our meetings, each emergency and urgent work order is discussed in detail with military leaders and the Hunt team. Questions are raised and answered in an open forum to ensure the voice of the service member is heard.”
This process has been effective as Fort Lee had seen a 50 percent decline in backlogged work orders prior to the COVID-19 social-distancing measures that temporarily halted non-emergency service calls. Hunt has been systematically restoring routine maintenance work in unison with the installation’s phased reopening plan, and another 50 percent drop in delinquent requests is projected to be achieved by July 17. Residents, Martin noted, have the responsibility to promptly submit work requests as needed, and the command is recommending use of housing’s RentCafe App that facilitates submission, tracking, follow-up and customer feedback.
Martin further briefed summit attendees on Fort Lee’s PCS move projections, hovering around 290 personnel inbound and 270 outbound. The “between-occupancy-maintenance” of homes is six days. Hunt shares a daily move-out roster with the Garrison Housing Office to ensure home inspections are synchronized.
“The BOM contractor has a clear, concise document that lays out all of the requirements for that home,” Martin elaborated. “When the team returns (to) jointly inspect the home on day 6, a final punch-list of any remaining deficiencies is created. In many cases, the BOM team leader is on site and corrections are immediate. As a result of this process, from Jan. 1 to present no home has been failed by the garrison housing managers and no negative comments have been received during the new resident callbacks conducted by the GHO.”
The garrison commander reiterated a point she made at the May 11 virtual town hall here, which is the command’s goal to make Fort Lee “the best place to live on the planet.” To that end, it is pursuing perfect housing scorecard ratings in the areas of overall customer satisfaction, work order quality, and feedback and communication between housing managers and residents. A lot of progress has been made in all areas, she noted, and the post received an average rating of “good” in the last two CEL Housing Surveys.
In a note to military leaders sent the day after the summit concluded, Gabram said, “It was strongly evident in the joint briefings, supported by detailed scorecards, installations with RCI housing have solid plans for our PCS surge based on effective collaboration, proven partnerships and tested processes during COVID-19.
“We are in a completely different place than last year,” he also noted. “Our Army Families are now much better off. We are attacking forward! One fact for perspective and scale –out of 87,000 privatized houses, we had 198 displaced families 7 months ago and are down to 41 now, and 25 percent of that number is pre-planned for renovations or new housing.
“I ask that you all stay up on comms as we enter the summer PCS surge so we can anticipate and knock down targets together,” he concluded. “Stay in touch and let us know what support you need.”