Karen Jowers, Military Times
Two companies that have been major players in military family privatized housing — Clark Realty Capital and Lincoln Military Housing — have sold their military housing properties.
The Michaels Organization announced Sept. 2 it has bought the eight military housing communities owned by Clark Realty, housing more than 15,000 Army, Navy and Air Force troops and families.
Among the eight properties is Harbor Bay at MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa, a community of 527 homes open to officers and enlisted personnel from all the service branches. Complaints in 2018 about mold at Harbor Bay led MacDill to cut the money the company received as a performance incentive.
Then, earlier this month, Liberty Military Housing announced it now owns all 30 privatized housing communities — home to more than 36,000 military families — previously owned by Lincoln Military Housing. Lincoln sold the company to its employees, and the name change reflects the new, employee-owned company.
The exit of Clark from the military housing arena is one example of the deeper work being done to improve military family housing and hold companies accountable, said Army Gen. Edward M. Daly, the head of U.S. Army Materiel Command, in an interview with Military Times. The Command was tasked two years ago with overseeing Army family housing and addressing rampant problems with mold, rodent infestations and families’ frustration with Army leadership’s inaction. Similar problems were being experienced by families across the services.
“We put some very, very harsh downward pressure on Clark because they were a failing partner,” Daly said. “We exposed their weaknesses and, quite frankly, I didn’t think they were committed to supporting soldiers and their families. And I told them that.”
He also noted that Clark officials were called to Capitol Hill to testify earlier this year but didn’t show up.
While this pressure factored into the Clark-Michaels ownership transfer, it’s not the entire story around the sale of the Clark portfolio, Daly acknowledged. But the Army’s pressure illustrates the increased effort to hold companies accountable.
Regarding Daly’s comments, officials from Clark Realty Capital stated, “Our long record of excellence and achievement has been recognized by federal and local agencies, including the White House under President Obama.”
Clark officials said they are proud of their decades-long history “setting new standards in the Military Housing Privatization Initiative program.”
Daly said he believes the agreement will work out well for Michaels and for the Army because of Michaels’ previous work as the property manager for Clark. In addition, Michaels previously owned three privatized housing communities.
In June, the Army announced that 37 installations had implemented all 18 provisions in the tenant bill of rights. The installations that didn’t implement all of those rights — such as a dispute resolution process and a mechanism for withholding rent to landlords during disputes — were operated by Clark. Army officials confirmed that all provisions have now been implemented at all its installations’ privatized housing as a result of Michaels taking ownership of Clark military housing.
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Congress mandated the 18 tenant rights in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. It was part of comprehensive reform provisions to address pervasive issues with mold, rodents and other health, safety and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.
Frustrated military families testified in 2019 about their inability to get some of the private companies to fix problems and the lack of assistance from military leadership on some bases. Military officials acknowledged they had dropped the ball in terms of their responsibility to oversee privatized housing.
A number of lawsuits over housing conditions have been filed by military families against privatized housing companies, including Clark and Lincoln; these changes in ownership don’t affect pending lawsuits.
Michaels previously owned privatized housing at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.; and Fort Huachuca, Ariz. Aside from Harbor Bay at MacDill, the eight properties they’ve acquired from Clark are Liberty Parks at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland; The Villages at Fort Belvoir, Va.; The Villages at Fort Benning, Ga.; The Villages at Moffett Field/Camp Parks, Calif.; The Villages at Fort Irwin, Calif.; Camp Parks at Monterey Bay, Calif.; and Pacific Beacon privatized unaccompanied housing at Naval Base San Diego, Calif.