By Nathan Van Schaik, USAG BavariaJuly 1, 2019
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Maintenance response times, lack of transparency of housing work orders, and effective sponsorship were among common findings of over four thousand recent home and barracks visits here, said the garrison commander at a town hall to address housing issues.
Garrison Commander Col. Adam Boyd hosted a housing town hall at the Tower Barracks Theater June 25 to update the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria community on housing issues at Grafenwoehr, Netzaberg and Vilseck.
Earlier this spring, unit and garrison leadership conducted visits to all government-leased housing, on-post housing and barracks to assess the scale and scope of housing issues -- prompted by housing concerns across the Department of Defense. The garrison also held six town halls across Bavaria to address housing problems and questions.
Senior leaders assessed 100 percent of the 4,339 homes and barracks at USAG Bavaria -- the largest number of government-leased and owned homes and barracks among any Army garrison in Europe.
"Our immediate priority of the visits was meeting U.S. Army obligations to provide safe, quality family housing," Boyd said.
The garrison did end up relocating several families due to conditions considered unsafe. But at present, all housing problems at USAG Bavaria impacting life, health and safety have been resolved.
Those conditions affecting "life, health and safety" include situations that -- if left uncorrected -- could cause harm or injury to a person or extensive damage to a facility. Examples include water, fuel, gas, hazardous material or chemical leaks; electrical hazards; busted pipes or flooding in a room or barracks; entire houses or barracks without heat, water and/or power; or downed trees generating immediate danger.
The USAG Bavaria Housing Division has made progress since the initial housing town halls. For example, staff with the Housing Division established a 24/7 housing hotline (DSN 475-6324, CIV 09641-83-6324), created a USAG Bavaria "How-To" video series, and re-energized a responsive Housing Facebook page.
But issues identified in the findings indicate the work is far from over. The most common issues included the following:
One common finding from the home visits included poor response time and service by repair and maintenance staff known in Germany as hausmeisters. In some cases, there has been a language barrier between tenants and hausmeisters. In response, Boyd and housing officials recently met with the German federal real estate office known as BImA to communicate with property managers to enforce required and contractual services.
WORK ORDER TRANSPARENCY
Tenants living in government-controlled housing can submit work orders for repairs. Additionally, a common problem was the work order resulted in slow response time, no response time at all, or no follow-up at all. The garrison is working on a better system of transparency, which would look to improve communication, increase feedback of services, and better follow-up on scheduled appointments.
When the chain of command is involved with Soldiers moving in or out of quarters, problems were significantly reduced. A Soldier's command, for example, can be involved when he or she signs for or leaves quarters. To help achieve this, USAG Bavaria will offer more sponsorship training to lay foundation for improved Sponsorship Programs.
"We still can and must improve," Boyd concluded. "As a garrison we're always looking for ways to help create a better experience for inprocessing and outprocessing Soldiers and families."
USAG Bavaria holds quarterly town halls to address housing issues. The next town hall will be in September.