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Military families win housing protections with new defense budget

Over the last year, families reported mold and other problems in military housing at MacDill and other bases.
Traci Lenz said this is what her kitchen vent looked like even after mold remediation at her MacDill Air Force Base home. [Courtesy of Traci Lenz]
Traci Lenz said this is what her kitchen vent looked like even after mold remediation at her MacDill Air Force Base home. [Courtesy of Traci Lenz]
Published Jan. 5
Updated Jan. 5

TAMPA — Military families living in private housing have gained new protections through the annual national defense budget.

Over the last year, several families, including some who lived at MacDill Air Force Base, reported illness and financial constraints due to mold and other problems in their military housing. Many claimed negligent landlords and property managers were to blame.

After months of lobbying and litigation, new federal laws set forth standards to better remediate such concerns and hold housing authorities accountable.

The new provisions include the creation of a chief housing officer working within the Department of Defense to oversee all private military housing; the creation of a public database detailing housing complaints; a requirement that landlords reimburse the Department of Defense for medical costs associated with faulty housing; and creation of a tenant bill of rights and standardized tenant responsibilities.

“These resources will help empower military families and address mold and shoddy construction in privatized base housing at MacDill and across the country,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said in a news release.

Castor was among the congressional leaders who advocated for these families in drafting language as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Amie Norquist, who moved her family to North Carolina after living with mold at MacDill, thanked all those involved with the legislation. Yet she remains concerned.

Some of the new provisions call for base commanders to be more involved in remediation processes. Norquist, whose husband serves as an officer in the special operations forces, is worried that not all base commanders will be open to families’ complaints.

Traci Lenz, whose family also developed health problems after mold exposure at MacDill, added that it’s unclear whether all military housing landlords will agree to the terms outlined in the new provisions.

Lenz does point to gains like the new requirement for landlords and property managers to disclose previous issues and remediation efforts to potential tenants.

“It gives an educated choice and puts leverage into families’ hands,” Lenz said.

Norquist is pleased with the creation of the chief housing officer, a position that could provide more structure to landlord-tenant relations nationwide.

Similarly, Ron Hansen, president of the Michaels Organization — managers of MacDill housing — praised the requirement of new national standards for remediation, saying they could clear up confusion on property managers’ responsibilities state to state.

Hansen said his firm has worked closely with the Army and the Department of Defense in crafting some of the defense budget provisions. While the mold complaints at MacDill came as a surprise at first, he said, his firm identified areas of improvement and followed through.

“It’s been a lot of work but the process seems to be improving,” he said.

Norquist, Lenz and other military families are currently suing the Michaels Organization and other firms for damages incurred by living in what they called hazardous housing. The families are represented by Natalie Khawam.


  1. It started 40 years ago with a task force of 261 men and evolved into U.S. Central Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base. Some 3,000 people work there now. [Times (2011)]
  2. Suzi Goodhope of Havana, Fla., and Shiraz, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, are helping in the search for an African American cemetery forgotten somewhere on the grounds of MacDill Air Force Base. Goodhope trains human-remains detection dogs in Havana, Fla. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  3. Like the rest of Florida, and Tampa in particular, MacDill Air Force Base treated African Americans as second class citizens in its early days during World War II. The history is surfacing again as archaeologists prepare to search for graves that might have been left behind in a black cemetery when the base was developed. [Times (2000)]
  4. Communication is the goal as a blindfolded Robert Simison, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class, navigates an obstacle course under the direction of fiancee Jamie Boate. The two are taking part in couples therapy for Special Operations Forces families. [WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.  |  Special to the Times]
  5. New Air Force dress guidelines released Feb. 7, 2020 set standards allowing personnel to wear turbans, hijabs and beards. [US Air Force]
  6. Concerns about the boom pod on a KC-135 Stratonker, like the one pictured here, prompted an emergency landing at MacDill Air Force Base while the jet was being used as a flying classroom. [Times (2011)]
  7. FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, a man waves an Afghan flag during Independence Day celebrations in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan official Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, said multiple U.S. military deaths have been reported in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province after an insider attack by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File) [RAFIQ MAQBOOL  |  AP]
  8. National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) [SUSAN WALSH  |  AP]
  9. Sam Flores admires a new statue of his late brother, William Flores, Monday at the U.S. Coast Guard Sector, St. Petersburg. The statue honors William Flores, who helped save fellow crew members on the US Coast Guard vessel Blackthorn when it sank on January 28, 1980. Twenty three crew members died. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
  10. Jessica Purcell of St. Petersburg, a captain in the Army Reserve, was pregnant with son Jameson when she was told at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic not to worry about lumps under her arm. She now is diagnosed stage 4 cancer. Jameson is 10 months old. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
  11. This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by Saudi aviation student Alshamrani at a Florida navy base in December 2019, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. [AP]
  12. MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo] [HANDOUT  |  Air Force]