CAFB prepares to privatize housing

By Greg Allen, 27th SOW Public Affairs

An on-and off-relationship with housing privatization is once again “on,” as the base moves forward with an Air Force initiative to get the military out of the landlord business.

Base team members met recently to learn and discuss the process that will change the role the base now currently plays in housing. By Sept. 30, 2009, the change will be complete.

Marianne Long, project manager for Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that is overseeing the process, headed the meeting. Her role, she said, is to “support Cannon and get us from where we are now to where we want to be.”

Ultimately, 278 housing units (273 in Gemini and five in Mercury) covering 90 acres will be replaced by an expanded medical facility and a new recreational area. This will offset base housing from the railroad and meet force protection requirements.

The remaining 293 units in the Mercury housing area, occupying about 95 acres, will be conveyed for civilian management. Long said Cannon officials will pursue having most of the existing homes demolished and new ones built.

Joe Cannon Estates and Chavez areas will convey 953 existing housing units. Major renovation will be done to 250 Chavez Manor unit. Repairs and minor renovations will be made to the 361 Chavez Manor West units after conveyance.

The 350 leased “801” housing units in Clovis and Portales are not affected by the privatization move, officials said.

The earliest that Cannon can expect new housing available for military families is 2011, Long said. That is based on the assumption that the developer will complete the Chavez Manor home renovations first.

Cannon will group with McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas and Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina into one housing privatization contract/partnership. The total value is estimated at more than $250 million.

Privatization is hardly a new concept. Tim Farmer, housing flight chief, said privatization efforts were underway from 2002 to 2005. Just as the final touches were being done, the Base Realignment and Closure commission selected Cannon for closure, effectively squelching the project.

The biggest difference between what was done then and what is being done now, said Farmer, is that, “In 2002, Cannon was a stand-alone project. Now we are grouped with two other installations.”

Once privatization is complete, airmen who live in the housing area will receive Basic Allowance for Housing.

The property manager will receive the BAH and will be responsible for maintenance and upgrades.

Utility meters will be installed and after a period of usage metering, airmen will receive an amount based on an average utility usage. They will then be billed for gas and electricity. If their usage is below the average, they will receive a rebate for the difference. If they exceed the average, they will pay the difference out of pocket.

Farmer said that Cannon’s housing will number about 1,000 units.

Privatization will provide airmen and their families access to safe, quality, affordable, and well-maintained housing in a military community where they choose to live, Long said.