Housing evaluation team visits KMC

by Tech. Sgt. Markus M. Maier
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A team hired by the Air Force visited the KMC Oct. 25 to 29 to conduct an analysis on available housing.

The analysis, called a Housing Requirements Market Analysis, is a detailed study to determine the quantity and bedroom configuration of military housing the U.S. government must provide to ensure all military households have access to acceptable housing and is done approximately every four years. The HRMA follows OSD guidance specifying that the military services must rely first on the private sector to meet its housing needs prior to considering military housing. The study determines if there is sufficient affordable, suitable private sector housing to meet the needs of military households, both families and unaccompanied personnel. 

With about 90 percent of the KMC currently living off base, the analysis is vital to ensuring not only the numbers of available housing matches up, but also that the housing meets basic standards set forth by OSD.

“While the analysis ensures compliance with the OSD housing requirements, a basic floor or a minimum (number) of on-base housing, which is 10 percent of each rank and bedroom category is maintained,” said Karen Leonard, KMC Housing director.

The team looks at a market area covering a 60-minute commute or 20-mile distance, whichever is greater, and identifies vacant and military occupied rental units. Safety of homes and neighborhoods, amenities, size based on local market standards, affordability (within members’ Overseas Housing Allowance) and military household bedroom entitlements are also considered. The team includes information provided by local government offices, including the census bureau, banking officials and real estate agents to round out the data.

All of this information is combined with the number of authorized Air Force and Army positions to determine the KMC’s on-base housing requirement.

The results of the analysis, which are not expected to be released until early next year, determine if more housing units need to be built on base or if housing requirements stay the same or are reduced.

The last HRMA was accomplished in 2006 and updated in 2008 and identified a requirement of 1,641 on-base housing units.

“For the last few years, the local economy has kept up with our housing needs and older surplus on-base units have been demolished,” Ms. Leonard said. “If units are not surplus and are considered adequate, we will continue to utilize them until their lifespan runs out.” 

However, despite what the numbers say, some members new to the KMC feel good housing is not that easy to come by.

“When we first got here, we had a hard time finding a house that worked for us,” said Tech. Sgt. Jimmy Evans, 86th Communications Squadron Client Systems Team noncommissioned officer in charge. “I work on Ramstein and my wife works at Vogelweh, so we were trying to find something kind of in the middle for the commute.”

He said the demand for off-base houses was so high that by the time they would inquire about a house listed at the housing office, it was already rented out. Another challenge Sergeant Evans noted was the unique size of the houses.

“We have a lot of large furniture, and most of the houses here are smaller than what we are used to in the states,” he said.  “It took us a while to find the right house for us and we looked at a lot of houses.”

Ms. Leonard said the housing team is well aware of the issues some newcomers have and knows the term “adequate housing” is very subjective.

For this reason, it is even more important that sponsors help educate newcomers on the unique differences they may face in searching for a home off-base.

“We do not expect anyone to lower their personal standards,” Ms. Leonard said. “However, expectations must be realistic as families now reside overseas. In Germany, housing is smaller then what might be found in the United States; most houses do not have closets or fenced yards and many landlords do not allow pets.”

Though the housing market may be limited, Ms. Leonard said the KMC has seen many housing improvements. By summer 2011, the last of the 852 townhouse units will be constructed and occupied. Whatever the outcome of this year’s analysis, changes will not be seen immediately.