Baumholder Family Housing already into delayed summer housing surge

The summer permanent change of station moving season would normally be surging by mid-June. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the Secretary of Defense Stop Movement order have turned that surge into a gentle wave for the moment.

Only those with an Exception to Policy, those getting out of the Army or those moving to a different installation within Germany are leaving Baumholder now. But that won’t last long, said Harald Kastner, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Housing chief.

“We have sent emails to our residents who have been delayed to schedule their pre-checks, so we can be prepared and know what work needs to be scheduled when their home is vacated,” Kastner said.

Housing on Smith Barracks, part of the Baumholder Military Community, ranges from four-story, apartment style housing of two, three and four bedrooms to townhouse style. Photo by Jason Tudor

The Stop Movement has effectively created an overlap of families leaving and families coming in. The Baumholder Housing Office and Directorate of Public Works crews must have time to check a vacated house and make any needed repairs before a home can be offered to an incoming family.

The Baumholder Military Community has nearly 900 housing units. During the summer PCS surge, hundreds of units will be vacated, cleaned and offered to incoming families. Each resident PCSing out is responsible for having their house swept and cleaned, and for informing the housing office of any repairs needed above normal wear and tear.

“Last summer, our on-post housing section processed 450 moves between April and September,” said Charm Sutton, Baumholder Housing Service chief. “This summer with the condensed PCS season, we are expecting the same number of families in half the time.”

The overlap may cause an issue with families having more than one home to choose from. But Baumholder leaders say all sponsors or inbound Soldiers and families will have at least two homes to look at as long as there is availability.

“We know from experience and from reviewing the current inbound flow of Soldiers and families that our housing office will not have the ability to offer multiple homes to families in the late summer simply based upon availability,” said Jim Bradford, Baumholder garrison deputy manager. “This historically occurs in the three- and four-bedroom categories. In our two-bedroom category, we should be able to offer at least two homes for decision, but these homes may not have much difference in comparison.”

Housing officials understand moving is a stressful time, especially for the junior noncommissioned officers and Soldiers who make up the bulk of housing residents. They try to stave off the inevitable surprise when families making their first move to Germany see the difference between the privatized housing at an installation in the U.S. and housing at an installation in Germany. They communicate with families and highly encourage them to visit social media and Army Housing web sites and to talk to their sponsors so they’re not caught by surprise when they’re shown Baumholder housing units.

Many of the younger families are in their first or second PCS. So, a little patience and understanding can go a long way, according to Sutton.

“We always prepare for peak transition season by managing our inventory to the best of our abilities and working closely with DPW,” Sutton said. “But we also stock up on patience and compassion. Housing is very personal to people and our team strives to empathize with every family that comes our way.”

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