By Mr. Lorin Smith (I Corps)April 21, 2011
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Clayton likes the security and comfort living on base provides his family. Clayton recently moved into a new four-bedroom house in the Cascade Village neighborhood of McChord Field on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
He goes to the field often and will deploy with his unit, the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. He appreciates the piece of mind the close-knit community offers his wife and three children, particularly when he's gone.
Clayton is just one of several new residents of McChord's newest development. Residential Communities Division broke ground last year and has completed 26 of 62 Cascade Village duplexes and single-family homes on McChord Field. All 26 homes are currently occupied.
The development offers military families multi-level three- and four-bedroom units for lease to senior NCOs, warrant officers and commissioned officers. A JBLM servicemember can lease a single-story home there that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. All JBLM housing is averaging a 96 percent occupancy rate, said Greta Powell, Residential Communities Division chief.
Each house in the neighborhood features a heat pump, air conditioning, covered garages and at least 2,000 square feet, said Equity Residential Managing Director Todd Vasko.
"The homes are what you would see, in size and amenities, if you were buying a new home off post," Vasko said.
The Army formed a 50-year partnership with Equity Residential when it was Fort Lewis. The privatized contractor delivers maintenance and yard services to JBLM residents, a partnership that allows on-base residents to have one point of contact for in-home service-related issues, no matter where they live on the installation, he said.
McChord Air Force Base privatized its housing communities in 2008 with Equity Residential. Now with joint basing, billing processes, repair issues and a single garrison commander has made day-to-day operations easier for Equity Residential, and residents benefit.
"We now have one philosophy, one point of view, and we aren't trying to appease two separate groups, being the Army and Air Force," Vasko said.
Another advantage to having a joint base housing system is relief from the "live where you work" policy, the stipulation that Soldiers must live on Lewis and Airmen live on McChord. Army families now make up 46 percent of residents living in McChord Field neighborhoods, Powell said. The numbers aren't quite that high for Airmen living on Lewis, because of the ratio of eight Soldiers to each Airman. Air Force families have priority and the right of first refusal to McChord housing.
"We are excited in the privatized progress of breaking down the barriers between the services in our installation communities," she said.
Clayton is one of those barrier breakers, as a Soldier living on the Air Force side of the joint base. He arrived at then-Fort Lewis nearly two years ago, and moved into his first house on McChord. Two months ago, he was given the option to move to Cascade Village.
"I am loving the new house greatly," Clayton said. "Space-wise, we are two to three times bigger than what we were in."
Regardless of where he's living on JBLM, he doesn't have to mow the lawn, giving the warrant officer more time to spend with his family.
"Being an Air Force brat, I had to mow the lawn," he said. "Now, especially after a recent deployment, I can concentrate on other things around the house other than the lawn."
Monthly lease payments and maintenance costs for each household are paid through servicemembers' Basic Allowance for Housing. It also pays for future construction projects, meaning that no extra money is required in the form of new appropriations from Congress. The self-sustainability program created through privatization ensures that even during a housing crisis, on-base home construction will continue.
"Privatization is a good tool that Congress has provided the military departments to take creative approaches to funding construction," Powell said. The remaining 36 Cascade Village homes are expected to be completed and available for occupancy by the end of the year. The next housing project is planned in the Heartwood Community on McChord Field, where 156 duplex units will be built for junior enlisted servicemembers and their families. A new family housing community center near McChord's Carter Lake Elementary School will be constructed by 2013, to serve as a meeting location for residents to use.
"It's exciting time for family housing and it's great to see families enjoying their communities," Powell said.
For more information about JBLM housing or McChord Field's Cascade Village, visit Lewis-McChord Communities website at www.jblmc.com, or call Equity Residential's Lewis Main office at 912-2150 or McChord's office at 589-0523.
Lorin T. Smith: email@example.com