Cannon housing needs tops list among Midwest bases

Sharna Johnson

Cannon Air Force Base has the greatest need for improved and new housing units among six Midwest bases in line for private housing contract.

The process of shifting to privatized housing was discussed Friday morning during a site visit meeting hosted by MHW Americas.

By next year, the military hopes to have a private company managing its housing facilities at Cannon and five other bases in the northern-Midwest.

MWH Americas is a real estate services company charged with facilitating the process of establishing a 50-year contract with a private company, which will manage military housing assets as well as renovate and build new units at six bases.

With a target date of March 2012 for a final contract, the successful bidder will be expected to build 1,165 new housing units and improve 364 at the six bases within a six-year period, according to MWH Project Manager Binks Franklin. Most — 676 new homes and 361 renovations — will be at Cannon.

The completed project will cost an estimated $350 million to $400 million.

The contract will include three North Dakota air bases Minot, Ellsworth and Cavalier; Mt. Home, Idaho, and Cannon, Franklin said.

Franklin addressed a group of more than 100 community leaders, business people and Cannon representatives during a breakfast meeting at the Clovis Civic Center Friday.

The new housing units created under the contract will not meet all of the base’s needs Franklin explained, saying about 30 percent of personnel will seek home ownership, 30-40 percent will want rental housing in the community and the remainder will prefer base housing.

“The Air Force as a whole still depends on the local community for housing,” Franklin said.

“It is a very small (amount) that we will look to provide on base.”

Lt. Col. Daniel Guinan, Cannon’s civil engineer, said projections place the base’s population at 6,000 by 2017.

Franklin described the scale of the project as “Wall Street” level and said, “Generally we don’t get (proposals from) local banks.”

However he said construction projects will have strong impact on local communities.

Bidders were invited to begin submitting their qualifications Jan. 27, with a deadline of April 5 and a selection will be made by August, he said.

Under privatization, military members are paid a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The allowance is based on rank and includes an amount to pay rent costs and an estimated utilities allowance.

For military members who choose to live in military housing, they would begin paying rent and utility costs with BAH to the company granted contract.

Under current arrangements, Cannon members living in civilian housing receive BAH, however those occupying military housing do not. They also do not pay utility costs.

“It’s amazing once you put meters on houses how much usage goes down,” Franklin said.

Past privatization projects have shown a 40 percent reduction in utility use when occupants became responsible for direct payment of those bills, he said.