Program will privatize military housing at Altus

Monday, August 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AP) _ Privatizing military housing at Altus Air Force Base is expected to pump more than $64 million in improvements into base housing in the next six years, authorities said.

The U.S. Air Force plans to enter into a 50-year lease with a private contractor who will build, renovate and maintain hundreds of homes at the southwestern Oklahoma base.

The privatization program is one of 28 being conducted throughout the Air Force but Altus is the only military installation in Oklahoma chosen to participate.

``This is about quality of life,'' said Denise Hastye, Altus Air Force Base's chief of housing privatization. ``A person who has to go off to fight a war can't be worried about whether or not his family is being taken care of back home.''

Under the plan, private contractors will submit bids to construct 87 new houses, demolish 132 dilapidated houses, renovate 834 houses and upgrade utility systems to Oklahoma codes. The contractor then will be responsible for maintaining the homes.

Although no date for construction has been set, Altus base officials plan to host a forum for prospective contractors in November.

Monthly rental payments will be withdrawn from the paychecks of base personnel, base spokeswoman Gwen Brewer said. A housing allowance currently is taken from the paychecks of those who live on base _ a fee Brewer said will not increase with the privatization project.

Altus has 966 family housing units, including 45 that have been designated as surplus and will be demolished. The homes were built in the 1950s and have been neglected due to budget constraints.

Another 86 units targeted for renovation also have shown signs of aging, officials say. They were built in 1976.

The program stems from an Air Force study in which airmen listed housing as a top priority.

John Busca, the Air Force's privatization program manager, recently estimated that 50 percent of Air Force housing had fallen into disrepair. The Air Force has begun building and upgrading 27,000 family military homes nationwide.

``This is a key aspect of the retention issue,'' Busca said. ``The availability of modern housing is an important factor in our airmen deciding to re-enlist or depart the military.''