Even as dozens of families are reporting mold and other issues in private housing at MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Last week, Crist introduced a bill to “empower military base commanders to hold private companies managing on-base military housing accountable for the health and safety of servicemembers and their families” and he pointed to the problems at MacDill.
“It’s shocking and unacceptable that our servicemembers and their families are being trapped in living situations that put their health and safety at risk,” said Crist. “Part of the issue stems from base commanders not having the authority necessary to police bad actors, holding private companies accountable for living conditions in the on-base housing they oversee. I think we can put a stop to these situations quickly by giving commanders the authority needed to protect their people.”
Crist’s bill “would empower the commander of a military installation to take corrective action if a company fails to effectively operate and maintain a leased house, including by withholding payments to housing contractors; requiring companies to reimburse tenants for private property damaged because of inadequate housing conditions; requiring companies to pay moving expenses of families who are forced to vacate a property because it is unlivable.
“For current housing contracts, the Crist legislation would allow military personnel to utilize the chain of command for reprieve from an abusive private housing landlord, officially extending whistleblower protections to protect them from any potential retribution. The current process requires military personnel to file a case with the Office of the Inspector General, which does not bring relief on individual cases, because the IG examines military housing on a Defense Department-wide basis,” the congressman’s office noted.
“It’s pretty simple – empower local base leadership to fix the problem, and give our soldiers and their families a clear voice in the process. I can’t believe things have gotten to the point that servicemembers have had to quit the military to protect their families, but Congress has the power to put a stop to it – and we need to act without delay,” said Crist.
Crist’s bill was sent to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee last week. So far, there is no Senate version and there are no cosponsors in the House. But the Tampa Bay congressman might find some allies over in the Senate including in U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who defeated Crist back in the 2010 Senate race.
Last week, Rubio wrote Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson on the matter.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., met with U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on the matter and followed up with her in a letter.