Two senators urge privatized housing companies to provide detailed information on their treatment of military families with disabled members who require accessible housing.
Some private companies that have worked with the Department of Defense “do not appear to be following federal laws protecting people with disabilities,” said letters sent on Dec. 18 to top executives at six companies and Senator Elizabeth Warren , D-Mass. and Sen. Thom Tillis, RN.C.
Citing the results of a small online survey published in July by the nonprofit Military Housing Advocacy Network, the Senators asked executives for details on each of their military housing communities by Jan. 15.
The poll results “painted a clear and worrying picture of housing problems for thousands of service members and their families, and showed that many military families are denied access to housing under the Disability Act,” the senators wrote.
They asked for the details “to better understand why [special needs] Families will not get ADA-compliant homes or reasonable accommodation. “
By January 15, each company has to answer 18 different questions for each of its privatized military housing projects. The questions included: How many families participating in the Extraordinary Family Membership program are making a living from the installation and applying for ADA housing? whether the rank of service member contributes to whether the family receives ADA housing; and the number of complaints received regarding housing needs for families with disabilities.
The Senators sent letters to executives at Balfour Beatty Communities, LLC; CBG Building Company; Corvias Property Management; Hunting for military communities; Americas Lendlease Corporation; and Lincoln Property Company.
Each letter gives some details of the survey results for that particular company. However, the Senators noted that the poll results may not reflect a representative sample. A small number of families, 107, responded, but MHAN lawyers said the complaints are heard frequently.
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Of those who took part in the survey, 85 percent required an ADA-accessible home. About 46 percent said they had been completely denied housing.
Of those who received an ADA-compliant home, half said they lacked accessibility features such as proper flooring, ramps, grab bars, and properly sized doors and hallways. Many said the issues were not adequately addressed after submitting a maintenance request. In addition, 20 percent of the families said they had been charged by their landlord for this necessary accommodation.
The senators determined that denying or delaying ADA-compliant homes or reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities is against federal law.
In their letters to the companies, the senators pointed out the long waiting times for the placement of ADA apartments. As mentioned earlier, not all families who participated in the survey were successfully placed in an ADA home:
- Balfour Beatty: The average reported waiting time was 167 days based on 13 respondents.
- CBG Building Company: The average waiting time was 603 days based on nine respondents.
- Corvias: The average waiting time was 555 days based on seven respondents.
- Hunting: The average reported waiting time was 423 days based on 18 respondents.
- Lendlease: The average waiting time was 60 days based on seven respondents.
- Lincoln: The average reported wait time was 281 days based on 19 respondents.
The Senators sent copies of their letters to DoD and service officials overseeing the privatized housing programs.
According to a 2018 report by the Government Accountability Office, approximately 132,500 military family members are enrolled in the Services’ exceptional family members programs. In the 2016 financial year, 39,000 EFMP families made permanent changes to the station move.
Various federal laws require housing providers to provide adequate accommodation and modifications for people with disabilities – including military housing. According to the United States Access Board, at least 5 percent of the total enclosure of an installation must be either accessible or easily modifiable in order to be accessible. There must be at least one unit.
Philip Rizzo, the head of Lincoln Military Housing, made a statement to the Military Times.
“We share Senators Warren and Tillis’ passion for improving the quality of life of military families participating in the Department of Defense’s Extraordinary Family Membership,” said Rizzo, COO and CEO of the company. “We look forward to understanding how LMH can continue to support the EFMP program and our military families.”
He said the company’s teams “receive training on and comply with all state and federal laws relating to privatized military housing, including the Disabled Americans Act, the Fair Housing Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.”
Lendlease officials issued a statement to the Military Times confirming that they had received the senators’ letter. “We look forward to demonstrating our continued commitment to all military families living in our communities. Over the course of our longstanding relationships with our military service partners, we have and will continue to seek ways to increase our support for military families, ”officials said.
Other companies contacted by the Military Times did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from additional housing companies.