FORT LEWIS, Wash. - With thousands of Soldiers returning from combat in the coming weeks, and more PCSing to post this summer, finding housing will be a top priority for many post families.

Fortunately, Fort Lewis' Residential Communities Office has you covered. The office has rental and sale listings on-hand, maps, computers, telephones and relocation professionals to help Soldiers and their families find housing quickly and easily.

"The best way to do it is to go into the housing office," said Nancy Barnes, housing management specialist for the Residential Communities Office of the Directorate of Public Works. "That's the best way to get all the correct information and the speed things up."

When looking for a rental property there are a few things to keep in mind. First, see the property, or have a trusted friend or family member see the property, before you give any money in deposits because once you make the deposits, you may be stuck with the home, even if it isn't what you wanted or thought it would be, Barnes said.

"We strongly suggest that they don't send any money," she said. "If they have to do that, for whatever reason, they can always call the Housing Services office and ask them 'what do you know about this area, what do you know about this apartment complex''"

Look at the apartment complex or home at night. And, if it is an apartment complex, stop by between 5 and 6 p.m. when other military members are coming home. Then ask them the big three questions, said Nancy Bundick at the Military Relocation Center.

"How do they treat you, how is the crime and how do you like it here'" she said.
Families also must remember when looking for a home that there are three components to their BAH. It is designed to cover rent, utilities and renters insurance; not just rent, Barnes said.

To help families avoid such pit falls, Fort Lewis offers the Rental Partnership Program, a program that partners reputable landlords and rental properties with Fort Lewis' Residential Communities to offer Soldiers a deal on rent.

"The Rental Partnership Program offers Soldiers 5 percent off their rent and reduced move-in costs," Bundick said. "That's helped out a lot of families because the quickness of it is that they are able to go ahead and get into an apartment or a house in a one-day turn around time."

The RPP offers Soldiers a cheap move-in option by waving background check fees and first and last month's rent. Soldiers are only responsible for a cleaning fee and, if applicable, a pet deposit.

In return for reduced rent and deposits, Soldiers have to agree to have their rent paid through an allotment and they cannot rent more home than their BAH will cover. If Soldiers are short on cash for the cleaning deposit, Army Emergency Relief can help out with some quick funds, Bundick said.

The Residential Communities Office partners with about 20 apartment complexes, plus several individual landlords to offer Soldiers and families a variety of apartments, duplexes and houses in most of the surrounding communities through the RPP.

To sign up for the RPP, a Soldier needs to bring his or her LES and orders to the Military Relocation Center.

For Soldiers who are thinking about buying a home, don't miss the free home buying workshop offered at Fort Lewis. Soldiers and family members can earn a certificate while learning the ins and outs of home buying and mortgages at the Stone Education Center, which entitles them to certain first-time home buying programs and other programs. The next workshop is on June 10 and 11 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. No reservations are necessary.

Soldiers can also look at rental properties through the Automated Housing Referral Network at www.ahrn.com.

Rachel Young is a reporter with the Fort Lewis Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Thu June 5th, 2008 at 17:41