BMC tenant survey results show high participation rate, room for improvement

Wetzel Housing creates a dramatic view as it cascades down a hill. Wetzel Housing consists of two, three, and four-bedroom apartment-style living. It also includes some newly renovated “right-sized” apartments. Photo by Jason Tudor

Results from the most recent Army Family Housing Tenant Satisfaction Survey show the Baumholder Military Community logged a record-breaking 38.5% participation rate, the highest participation for garrisons in Europe, and among the highest in the Army.

According to Housing Office leaders, this year’s participation rate can be attributed to the dedication of volunteers, who went the extra mile to collect responses.

“We have always had great support and engagement from the garrison command team, but this year the two driving factors of our increased participation were the phone calls made to residents and our weekly door-to-door flyers,” said Charm Sutton, Housing Office chief of customer service. “This ensured we remained in constant contact with our residents.”

In addition to the highest participation in U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz history, the tenant survey revealed a 2% increase in overall satisfaction. According to garrison leadership, though the increase in satisfaction is small, it is a step in the right direction.

“We are encouraged by the increased participation rate in the tenant survey, and by the increase in overall satisfaction, but we remain committed to providing the highest quality possible for our Soldiers and their families,” said USAG RP Commander Col. Vance Klosinski. “We are reminded that we still have much room for improvement in our housing services, and these survey results will help shape the future of our housing emphasis.”

Eighty-four new town homes opened in 2019 on Smith Barracks in the Baumholder Military Community. Photo by Bernd Mai

The survey, which was conducted by CEL & Associates Inc., an independent, third-party organization funded by the Department of Defense, also offered a snapshot of how families feel now, and how upcoming changes can impact the quality of life for Soldiers and their families.

Directorate of Public Works leaders note one of the biggest complaints received is the age and under-size of the homes available. These issues were not addressed for five years, from 2009-2014, due to the Army’s decision to close the installation. Since the Army ultimately decided to keep Baumholder open and merge the BMC with USAG RP, the funding and work to completely renovate facilities is moving at top speed.

“The garrison is tracking $3 billion worth of infrastructure programs for major improvements over the next few years, not only for housing in the BMC, but also for everyone working and living in our USAG RP community,” said George B. Brown, DPW operations chief.

DPW Director Greg Williams adds that of the $3 billion allocated for improvements, $344.5 million will be specifically for Army Family Housing projects in Baumholder. Some of the changes residents can expect to see in the future include: rolladens and balconies (a project started summer 2020), garages, and right-sized apartments.

Williams also notes that DPW staff is working on action plans detailing ways the directorate will improve areas which received low scores.

In reviewing the survey results, the Housing team also found that a big percentage of negative feedback was regarding the levels of service and types of service provided to residents.

“Unfortunately, many of the frustrations with service can be attributed to COVID mitigations,” said Sutton. “Our team is working to create action plans to move forward and provide transparency into how business is conducted.”

Housing Director Harald Kastner also notes the Housing office will focus on accountability for projects and services at all levels, and getting back to customer service basics.

Both the Housing Office and DPW agree that some of the frustrations in housing and maintenance services can be solved by using ArMA, the Army’s new maintenance application. Housing and barracks residents can submit and track service orders from inception to completion with ArMA, and communicate directly with DPW.

Sutton adds that the survey continues to provide invaluable data from BMC residents. The results of these surveys will continue to be used by the Housing team, and other installation leaders, to refine action plans to address deficiencies and prioritize resources.

“Our responsibility is to provide our residents the best options we have available, be honest, and take care of their needs,” said Sutton. “Our goal is to continue to support residents while they are in this community, and do so to the best of our ability.”