WASHINGTON – Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District is helping to cosponsor bipartisan legislation on that would increase accountability and oversight over private contractors providing housing for military families.
The bill is the House companion to Senate legislation introduced last week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and co-sponsored by Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.
Both bills come as questions have been raised about the serious health, safety and environmental problems found in military housing, some here locally.
“It’s unacceptable that our servicemembers and military families are dealing with hazardous conditions in their own homes,” Congresswoman Luria said. “Our bravest Americans are protecting this nation and deserve good housing, health care, and quality of life. Military families should never have to settle for less. This bill is an important step toward correcting a problem I hope we never encounter again.”
According to Luria’s office, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which includes Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Katie Hill (D-CA) as fellow cosponsors.
“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice to keep our country safe, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. The last thing they should have to worry about is housing that jeopardizes their health and safety,” Congressman Levin said. “It is unacceptable that some military families around the country have little or no recourse when private contractors provide substandard housing. This bipartisan legislation is an important step in holding private housing companies accountable and empowering military families, and I will continue to work with members of both parties to support America’s servicemembers.”
Luria and the rest of the cosponsors for this bill are hoping that this legislation would create a stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees.
The bill would also ensure that the military would withhold incentive fees from poorly performing contractors.
Provisions of the bill provided by Rep. Luria’s office:
- Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs.
- Housing costs: Ensures service members don’t have to pay a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
- Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
- Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.
- Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.