U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel; Jeanne Shaheen, Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Mazie Hirono, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support; and Reps. Sara Jacobs, Member of the House Armed Services Committee; and Stephanie Bice are reintroducing the bipartisan Military Housing Readiness Council Act, which would provide a platform for oversight and accountability of privatized military housing to give military families a voice and bring together experts to ensure military families have the safe housing they deserve.
Originally introduced in 2022, the Act would create a Council that would monitor the Department of Defense’s (DoD) implementation of the tenants’ bill of rights and creation of a public complaint database and would provide public reporting on all its activities.
“It is unacceptable for any of our servicemembers and their families to live in unsafe military housing with black mold, collapsed roofs, or exposed electrical wires because DoD is failing in its oversight responsibilities,” said Sen. Warren. “My bipartisan bill with Sens. Shaheen and Hirono, and Reps. Jacobs and Bice will mandate increased oversight of military housing, including DoD’s creation of a public complaint database, and report its work to Congress so that military families receive the safe housing they deserve.”
Specifically, the Military Housing Readiness Council Act would:
- Provide enhanced oversight: Review and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense regarding policies for privatized military housing, including inspection practices, resident surveys, landlord payment of medical bills for residents of housing units that have not maintained minimum standards of habitability, and access to maintenance work order systems. The Act will also monitor the Department of Defense’s compliance with and implementation of statutory and regulatory improvements to policies for privatized military housing, including the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights and the public military housing complaint database.
- Regularly engage stakeholders: Draw membership from the Department of Defense; every military service; officer and enlisted service members; spouses of officers and enlisted service members; a representative of the International Code Council; professionals in housing, personnel certification, and construction standards; organizations that advocate on behalf of military families regarding housing; a representative of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification; and other members to be selected by the chairs and ranking members of the armed services committees.
- Require the council to meet twice annually: Make additional recommendations to improve collaboration, awareness, and promotion of accurate and timely information about privatized military housing, including accommodations available through the Exceptional Family Member Program.
- Provide transparency: Require annual reporting to the Secretary and the congressional defense committees on the Council’s activities, including analyses of complaints of tenants of housing units; data received on maintenance response time and completion of maintenance requests; assessments of dispute resolution processes, housing inspections, and overall customer service; and any survey results conducted or received by the Council.
“Our servicemembers and military families sacrifice so much for all of us–and it’s our responsibility to ensure that their housing is safe and affordable,” said Rep. Jacobs. “But I’ve heard from so many families about poor quality housing riddled with black mold, windows that won’t close, leaky roofs, or loose electrical wiring. Low-quality housing not only impacts our service members’ ability to focus on the mission but also hurts the long-term health and development of their young children. That’s why I’m proud to re-introduce the Military Housing Readiness Council Act to ensure much-needed oversight and accountability of military housing so our service members and their families have the safe housing they deserve.”
In December 2022, Sen. Warren, along with Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, and Tim Kaine—all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee—and Sen. Sherrod Brown sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressing concern over reports that military families are being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with privatized military housing companies in order to receive compensation for poor housing conditions.
“As a steadfast advocate of our troops and their families, one of my top priorities is ensuring that military housing meets basic health and safety standards,” said Rep. Bice. “To that end, I am proud to co-lead the Military Housing Readiness Council Act with Rep. Jacobs, which will provide enhanced oversight of privatized military housing to ensure the timeliness of needed repairs, mold abatement, and upgrades to accommodate family members with disabilities. It is our duty to support those who have bravely and selflessly dedicated their lives to protecting our nation. Just as our servicemembers protect us, we must protect them.”