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Air Force selects developer for Langley privatization

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFNEWS) -- Langley took another step toward privatization when the Air Force announced BLB Family Housing, LLC, as the highest bidder for Langley's Military Housing Privatization Initiative recently.

BLB, a venture between Hunt ELP, Ltd. and Pinnacle American Management Services, will be responsible for providing, operating and maintaining up-to-date military housing on Langley, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C., for the next 50 years, said Bill Johnson, 1st Civil Engineer Squadron housing privatization project manager.

Like many other Air Force bases, Langley's housing doesn't meet modern standards for size and quality due to funding shortfalls - an estimated $5.6 billion, according to officials - which far exceeded the Air Force's construction budget.

Previously, more than 38 percent of Air Force family housing did not meet current housing market standards and required remodeling or complete renovation, according to the U. S. Air Force Housing Privatization Web site.

However, the Defense Authorization Act of 1996 provided a solution to inadequate military housing: the Military Housing Privatization Initiative.

The project, often referred to as MHPI, authorizes the armed forces to use private financing to upgrade, renovate and construct new housing in order to maintain modern market standards.

Since the initiative began, the Air Force has scheduled 38 housing projects for privatization, which will include up to 32,000 housing units throughout the United States at a cost of approximately $4 billion.

"This initiative gives us the ability to modernize our housing inventories quicker and provides the military families with safe, quality, affordable housing in a community in which they choose to live," Mr. Johnson said.

Negations with the BLB are expected to close in July. At that time, the developer will own, operate and maintain Barksdale, Langley, and Bolling base housing, and anticipates completing construction within seven years.

"Though seven years may seem like a long time, it will be well worth it when it's all said and done," said Mr. Johnson.

With privatization comes a number of upgrades, including 30 different floor plans, 1,040 new, larger Bethel Manor housing units, attached single and two-car garages on all housing units, ample storage room and larger bedrooms. Main base housing will undergo a "whole house" renovation, where the housing will maintain its historic value while providing modern housing standards for military members and their families.

Improvements are not limited to housing; Bethel Manor will also gain a housing welcome center, a state-of-the art community center with exercise and activity rooms, additional playgrounds, walking trails and two new swimming pools.

"The goal is to create a community that both the developer and the tenant would truly want to call home," Mr. Johnson said.

Because privatization means a non-government agency will own military housing, the way housing units are paid for will also change. Instead of forfeiting basic allowance for housing, military members will receive the allowance and pay rent by allotment to the project owner. Airmen will also receive a utility allowance equal to 110 percent of the average utility costs, which they will pay directly to utility companies. Rent will only increase when Airmen receive an increase in housing allowance - through promotion or Congressional legislation.

Although payment methods have changed, leasing options will be similar to the previous one-year agreement. The only changes is families will sign an initial one-year lease with the developer and continue on a monthly basis. Servicemembers can terminate leases under several clauses: a new assignment, retirement or separation.

There will be several changes to housing throughout the privatization process, ultimately, Airmen stand to benefit from the project.

"Not only will there be zero out-of-pocket expenses for Airmen in housing, but they'll also live in community-standard housing within the security of the installation." Mr. Johnson said.