Joint Base Completes Privatized Home Project
After five years of construction and renovation, over two thousand homes on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are complete as part of a privatized home project. Military officials along with 3rd District Congressman Jon Runyan stood outside the Saxon Community Center on the Joint Base. The location served as a ground zero of a project which began in 2007, the goal of which was to create “on base” residences for military personnel and their family that were managed by a private landowner.
The goal of the project was to absolve the military from the hassle of managing and maintaining housing for officers and enlisted members of all dour branches, while needing to provide modern, desirable, and up-to date residences which would keep the Joint Base more viable and off the BRAC list. Conversely it the landowner is allowed to collect rent and profit from the tenants.
Former Fort Dix Commander and Master of Ceremonies during the event, (ret) Colonel Michael Warner says in addition to the aforementioned benefits, there is also a significant cost savings to the military.
“First of all they [the military] don’t manage the houses anymore, and the second part is they don’t have to pay for the operation and maintenance expenses. The developer has to budget that in his operating cost. It basically relieves the Department of Defense of those services in addition to having brand new homes built.”
Through an open bidder process, United Communities – part of apartment complex owner First Montgomery Group – was chosen to redevelop the housing. Throughout the five year period 817 acres of land was revamped with either completely new construction or refurbishment of previously built homes. According to United Communities, 1,915 homes originally built in the 1950’s were demolished and in their place 1,635 new single family, duplex, and four-plex homes were put up. Additionally 435 existing houses were rehabilitated during the project.
Under a ground lease with the Air Force, United Communities will continue to manage the properties
for fifty years. The firm provides all maintenance, landscaping, garbage pick up, snow removal to residents, employing thirty employees for the tasks. Standard on base housing cost covers utilities as well.
The cost of homes is dependent on rank, however United Communities receives the entirety of military members Basic Housing Allowance (BHA).
According to United Communities, the prices for the on base homes are based on the surrounding areas (the land is located in North Hanover), and the average cost of rent is 2,335 per unit. Based on availability military personnel who want and can afford a more expensive home can request to be moved up one rank, and conversely renters can request to move down one rank.
Warner says though the developer gets no special subsidies or benefits from the military or government, they are able to operate as if it were a civilian business.
“It’s just like in the private sector, the rent that he receives back from military families is really their housing allowance, has to pay for keeping the housing to snuff and hopefully at some point and time he makes a profit.”
Though being a landlord in a military base might seem ideal since as long as there are tenants there is guaranteed rent, and the occupants are almost always responsible, Warner notes with the closure of Fort Monmouth there are always worries about base relocations and closures.
“The biggest concern that the military needs to address to the developer is in fifty years will there still be folks living at joint base?”
According to United Communities all of the newly built homes are either three or four bedroom units with 97% of them being two stories. House sizes range from 2,029 to 5,377 square feet. During a tour of one of the units, a representative said playground, community pool, and activity programs are provided for residents.