By Karin MartinezMay 7, 2019
VICENZA, Italy (May 4, 2019) - Within 30 days of the March 1 housing town hall here, local leaders completed assessments of more than 3,000 government-owned, government-leased and Soldier barracks, and U.S. Army Garrison Italy conducted a second town hall May 3 to provide an update on their findings and to discuss new initiatives.
Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier Jr., commander, U.S. Army Africa, and Col. Erik M. Berdy, commander, USAG Italy, led the community forum for the Vicenza Military Community at the Golden Lion on Caserma Ederle. Also on hand were Command Sgt. Maj. Jeremiah E. Inman, command sergeant major, USARAF; Norman Stiegler, director, Directorate of Public Works; and Mike Ashwood, facilities manager, DPW.
The garrison's local efforts were part of an Armywide effort to resolve unsatisfactory conditions in Army family housing across all installations, whether CONUS or OCONUS. According to a statement from Secretary of the Army Mark Esper in February, there were troubling reports highlighting deficient conditions in some family housing. Leaders here acted swiftly to identify housing issues in Vicenza and at Camp Darby, and changes are already being implemented.
"Our focus was to identify any issues related to life, health or safety," said Cloutier. "We learned a lot, and it gave me a better understanding of the state of affairs across the community."
The outcome of those visits, the general said, is that three families were temporarily moved to resolve health concerns, and two families were moved into new homes due to extensive concerns relating to their quarters. Also, a housing hotline was immediately established, giving those in any housing situation an easier avenue to report problems while providing direct feedback to garrison leadership for unresolved issues. Since that first town hall, more than 2,000 work orders have been generated, according to DPW.
Based on feedback from residents, said Stiegler, another outcome of the housing assessment is a set of near-term, mid-term and long-term initiatives that leadership is confident will address many resident concerns and improve quality of life for Soldiers, civilians and their families.
In the near term, Ashwood explained, initiatives include a new process to quarters' re-inspection before move-in, ensuring all issued appliances come with instructions in English, and improved legal support for private rental contract issues, to name a few. Mid-term initiatives include such items as creating a web-based work order portal and customer comment card feedback system for work orders, and developing standardized language for all privatized rental contracts. In the long term, the initiatives include refreshing government-leased quarters and private rental inventory; developing a mobile app to submit and track work orders; and expanding the private rental branch.
According to the Garrison Commander, one top priority going forward is a focus on private housing rentals. Per the last town hall and information gathered during the assessment phase, it seems to be most significant for this community.
"It was very evident to myself, Maj. Gen. Cloutier and several others on the Garrison staff during the last town hall that this is probably the point of greatest frustration, and that is, how do we manage the issues from residents of the private rental market of 2,400-plus?" Berdy said. "[Working on these issues] is going to take more deliberate planning and resourcing to get us to a better spot. That being said, what we've learned from the community is that what we have in place is pretty decent, but needs to be refined."
Refining the process and making improvements, Berdy added, will require feedback from the user. It is important that customers in private rentals provide feedback to the Housing Office about their experiences - positive and negative - when they move out of a home; address concerns as they come by contacting Housing, calling the Housing Hotline, or seeking legal assistance.
Another way to provide feedback, said the leaders at the town hall, is to respond to the Overseas Housing Allowance survey that closes May 31. All panel members emphasized the importance of the survey and encouraged those who are eligible to fill it out. It is open to service members who have resided in private rental quarters for at least three months; the link is www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/ohaSurvey.cfm?ID=may-util.
The Housing Hotline is available for members of both the Vicenza and Darby military communities: DSN 646-5116, comm. 0444-71-5116. Phone tree selection for all work order categories will activate for the separate communities.