Pumpkins are stacked at Fort Carson Family Homes last month for a Halloween festival. The post is surveying its residents to figure out whether initiatives to improve family housing have worked. A survey in July found that more than a third of residents weren’t happy with Fort Carson’s family residences.

The Army is surveying families living in on-post housing at Fort Carson and around the globe to determine whether its program to fix substandard living conditions has worked.

Fort Carson wound up in the spotlight this year after housing contractors were slow to fix hail damage that tore through roofs and shattered windows around the installation.

The surveys went out to Fort Carson residents last week. “CEL & Associates, an independent third-party organization, will administer the survey for the Army,” the service said in a news release.

In 1994, Fort Carson was the first post in the nation to privatize on-post housing.

The goal was for the Army to get new housing for troops with a rock-bottom up-front cost to the service.

Instead of owning the homes, the Army leased the property to the contractor, which built housing and retained the housing allowances of families living on base in lieu of rent.

Now, 25 years after the first housing deal was struck at Fort Carson, the Pentagon is reexamining the program, which it has used widely elsewhere.

Privatization was the right thing to do, the Army said. “It addressed (a) $20 billion maintenance backlog by leveraging private sector expertise and funding at a rapid pace,” the officials said.

But privatized housing on military bases didn’t come with the same rules that govern civilian landlords in Colorado Springs.

The military is driving for similar rules for on-post landlords, including a “resident’s bill of rights,” to address the shortcomings identified in eight months of military moves to improve housing.

In Colorado Springs, on-base housing has been a last resort for military families. Often those who choose to stay on base are awaiting other housing, or anticipate staying in town for such a short time that hitting the real estate market doesn’t make sense.

The result is that just one-fifth of Colorado Springs’ 40,000 active-duty troops live on a military base. That number doesn’t count Air Force Academy cadets, who get four years in government housing.

The housing contractors at bases including the Air Force Academy have found themselves competing with local landlords for civilian renters.

A 2018 Government Accountability Office report also found those landlords may be facing high debt loads, making maintenance of military homes a tight fit for the bottom line. And residents at Fort Carson haven’t been happy. A survey released over the summer showed just 64 percent of residents on the post were satisfied with their housing. The top complaints involved maintenance.

The Army is looking for rapid improvement in its new survey, and its head of installations, Lt. Gen. Jason Evans, said the service will fix the problems the survey identifies.

“The Army will improve homes, communities, and customer service — from Army housing staff and the private housing management companies — through the candid feedback we receive from our soldiers and their families,” Evans said.

They’ll also face a lot of scrutiny on the housing issue.

The House and Senate have held hearings on the topic this year and have promised follow-up. And with the entire House and a third of the Senate up for grabs in 2020, lawmakers will want to show voters how they stand up for troops and military families.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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