Housing discussion
Temple, Texas Mayor Tim Davis listens as Col. Chad R. Foster, commander, U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood, responds to a question during panel discussions at the 2022 Central Texas Housing Summit in the Mayborn Civic Center at Temple, Texas, March 29. (Photo Credit: David San Miguel, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

TEMPLE, Texas - In an effort to address the housing shortage in the greater Fort Hood area, the Central Texas Council of Governments hosted a day-long housing summit at the Frank Mayborn Civic Center here March 29.

According to event organizers, the Central Texas Housing Summit was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was postponed.

Long overdue, the organizers saw an urgency for some type of solution to address the housing shortage and wanted to move forward as restrictions mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were being lifted.

Like similar communities across Texas, the greater Fort Hood area has seen the demand for housing increase as individuals seek to take advantage of lower mortgage rates and better job opportunities as corporations relocate to the state.

The organizers added that this dynamic further compounds the issue here where there is already a shortage of affordable housing.

“Providing Soldiers the best affordable housing outside the gate is a chief concern,” commented Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood.

He added that in terms of affordable housing, the Army is most concerned for the junior enlisted Soldier, who is not able to absorb the financial shock of purchasing a home, or find an affordable apartment to rent that could accommodate a young, growing family.

Though the Army this year has raised Soldiers’ base pay by 2.7% and another 4.6% for 2023, the increases are still not enough to compete with a Texas housing market that has seen an influx of corporations relocating to the state to take advantage of lower cost of living and more favorable tax laws.

The colonel estimates that 40,000 Soldiers are stationed at Fort Hood, add to that the Reserve and National Guard troops training here, as well as the retirees who decide to stay in the area, and that demand for housing goes up.

Packed hall
Harker Heights, Texas Mayor Spencer H. Smith and a host of representatives from various civic, governmental and non-profit agencies listen to discussions about the availability of affordable housing for Soldiers during the 2022 Central Texas Housing Summit in Temple, Texas, March 29. (Photo Credit: David San Miguel, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

According to Foster, this situation is further compounded by the fact that the installation can only house between 23-25% of its military families, the majority of which are sergeants and below. Outside the gates, the subdivisions in the area are not within the price range for those young Soldiers, who make up roughly 70% of the military population.

“So, they’re (junior Soldiers) at an extreme disadvantage,” he said. And, the housing and barracks projects currently under construction cannot keep pace with this demand for more housing.

The commander added that what the Soldiers need is diversified housing that’s reasonable and affordable, i.e. three and four bedroom apartments.

“Some of these individuals are 18, 19 and 20-years-old – really a brand new family – and they’re trying to figure out how to live life,” he said. “We need to take the pressure off of these young folks.”

Foster said that this increased population of military families will bring business.

“They’re going to bring interest – going to restaurants, parks, doing things outside,” he said. “That’s what brings everyone to Central Texas. If you wonder why you’re having a housing challenge – it’s about people wanting to come.”

Tim Davis, Temple mayor, added that these housing issues are also happening around the nation as many are taking advantage of the housing market.

He added that the summit is an opportunity to elaborate and discuss how everyone can work together to address this issue.

“We have to find innovative solutions,” remarked Danielle Singh, assistant city manager of Killeen. “We need to rethink how we’re doing things. We need to reinvent these communities, and the more people we have working the issue, the better.

“We want quality, safe housing for all our residents,” she said.

According to Foster, this summit was yet another manifestation of the great partnership that exists between the Fort Hood military and civilian communities.