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Vandenberg residents meet new housing contractor

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- After announcing GMH Housing as the highest ranked offeror on July 30, wing leaders held a town hall meeting Wednesday to provide residents with more details on the company's plans for the base housing areas.

"GMH has nearly 40 military privatization projects across the U.S." said Barrett Larwin, project manager, to the nearly 150 residents in attendance. "We're very proud of our organization and we're looking forward to upgrading Vandenberg's housing areas."

The company will spend the next 45 to 60 days in negotiations with the Air Force and provide an agreed to plan of action to residents in mid-October.

"This is a quality of life issue for our Airmen and we want to insure GMH and the Air Force are working as a team looking at the best interest of our housing residents," said Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander. "While we will work to address all the concerns of our housing residents, not every question is going to have an answer to your liking and not everyone will be satisfied by every answer. Our goal is to work solutions that have a minimum impact for the majority of our residents."

While the 6-year initial development projects will be broken down into phases wing leaders understand there are going to be issues for the residents. Colonel Tanous encouraged anyone with an issue to raise it.

"Open dialogue and communication is the only way we're going to help our residents with their concerns," he said to the residents at the Pacific Coast Club.

The nearly two-hour meeting was dominated with questions from current housing residents ranging from who mows the grass and pays utilities to who is allowed to live in the base houses. For those who weren't able to attend the meeting, the following is a comprehensive list of the questions and answers from the meeting.

GMH Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What will GMH housing provide?
A: GMH Military Housing delivers world class financing, development, design/build construction, maintenance, asset management, and community management in order to rebuild military communities, alleviate inadequate housing and improve the quality of life for Airmen and their families across the United States.

Our focus is simple, our mission is clear - to provide safe and affordable housing of superior quality and beauty, where families can live, work and prosper.

Q: What is the initial term of the lease?
A: The initial term is one year upon the expiration of which, the lease becomes month to month.

Q: What if I cannot sign a 1-year lease?
A: If you are an existing resident at the time that GMH assumes responsibility of Housing (projected for Nov. 1) and are in the process of purchasing a home off-base or have previous commitments, discuss the situation with one of our resident specialists when you come in to sign your lease. In most circumstances we will be able to add a provision to your contract.

Q: If I'm moving in November 2007 do I still have to sign a lease?
A: Yes. Airmen must sign a residential lease agreement to live in privatized military family housing. This is a legal document and is designed to protect both GMH and the military member.

If you are moving out during the month of November we will make arrangements for you to pay your rent directly and not turn on an allotment.

Q: Can a resident lease be signed by a spouse if an Airmen is deployed?
A: Yes, the resident lease can be signed by a spouse with a special power of attorney.

Q: What happens if I get orders?
A: The resident lease provides provisions to terminate for PCS orders or TDY in excess of 90 days with the standard 30 day notice requirement.

Q: Who is my landlord?
A: GMH Military, LLC housing has been selected by the Air Force as the selected offeror and has responsibility for all family housing associated with Vandenberg.
- GMH Military Housing, LLC is a wholly-owned, industry-specific component of GMH Communities, LP. GMH Communities, LP is owned collectively by an operating partnership, which includes GMH Communities Trust, a Maryland real estate investment trust.
- As part of its core business, GMH has developed, constructed, owned and managed real estate since 1985 and today has more than 28,000 privatized military housing units under lease.

Q: What will my rent be?
A: The rent allotment will be equal to the Airmen's BAH, or base assistance for housing, with dependant rate.
Residents with two active duty members will be charged the BAH with dependent rate of the senior ranking member only, allowing the family to effectively save the junior members BAH.

Q: Do I need renters insurance?
A: GMH will provide personal property insurance of $20,000 with a $250 deductible and $100,000 in liability insurance with zero deductible.
- It is encouraged that you acquire additional personal property insurance to supplement what is provided.

Q: Who's allowed to reside in our home?
A: All persons listed on the resident lease.
- For guests visiting for an extended period of time, please refer to your resident guide (to be provided during or prior to lease signing.)

Q: How will service calls be answered?
A: GMH will provide maintenance service.
- Service orders may be either called in, dropped off at the community office or submitted via our website. 
- Please provide a contact phone number(s) in case of an emergency.

Q: What if GMH needs to enter my home?
A: You may sign an "Authorization to Enter" addendum attached to your residential lease agreement.
- GMH Military Housing personnel will enter for maintenance calls only with an Authorization to Enter. 
- We will enter for routine inspections and preventative maintenance with advance notice only with an Authorization to Enter. 
- No notice will be given if an emergency exists.

Q: Who is responsible for maintaining my yard?
A: As of Nov. 1, GMH Military Housing will provide landscaping for front yards and common areas as part of our services to you. 
- Mowing of all grass with the exception of fenced backyards. 
- Trimming of bushes, and weed control.

Q: Can my pets stay?
A: Yes, you may have up to two pets per household.
· Your pet(s) must be registered at the Veterinary Office & the Community Management Office.
· Every resident needs to sign the pet addendum attached to the residential lease agreement whether you have a pet or not.
· If your pet status changes a new pet addendum must be executed.

Q: What kind of vehicles can we park?
A: Vehicles in working order: 
- Unregistered, inoperable, unlicensed, cars on jacks or abandon vehicles are prohibited.
- No RVs, campers or trailers can not be parked in neighborhoods except 72 hours before and after to use.
- Violations will go through the Security Forces and are subject to towing. 
- Please contact the Community Manager if you have questions concerning this policy.

Q: Will my personal information on the resident lease and related forms be kept private?
A: Yes. In accordance with The Privacy Act of 1974, GMH complies with the AF requirements for collecting, safeguarding, maintaining, using, accessing, amending, and disseminating personal data kept in systems of records.

Q: How will utility billing work?
A: All utilities are included in the current BAH allotment: with the following exceptions
- Cable TV
- Phone
- Internet 
-- Individual electric and gas metering is planned as part of the renovations and new construction. 
-- Currently utilities like gas, electric, water and sewer are included in your rent. Once all of the homes in a neighborhood are equipped with electric and gas meters, consumption and costs will be tracked for one  year. An average consumption will be determined for each type of unit in each neighborhood and 110 percent of this average will be considered the resident utility allowance.
-- GMH Military Housing will decrease the resident rent allotment by the amount of resident utility allowance. The resident would then receive that amount in their pay and would become financially responsible for their own gas and electric consumption. 
-- Projected time frame to complete metering necessary for utility billing is 36 to 48 months.

Q: Will I have a Utility Deposit?
A: Not for water, electric or gas.
-- Contact local phone and cable companies regarding their deposit requirements

Audience Questions:
Q:
I have 3 dogs and you have a two dog limit. What provisions do you have for 3 dogs?
A: Everyone who currently lives in housing will be grandfathered. We will write into your lease agreement that you have 3 pets at the time of the lease. Those members moving into housing after Nov. 1 will fall into the new policy.

Q: Is the same day of the contract the same day your BAH starts?
A: Yes. After you sign the lease your Leave and Earnings Statement will reflect the BAH and an allotment for rent to GMH effective Nov. 1.

Q: Will privatization charge me for utilities?
A: Yes. We expect it to take 36 to 48 months to install the meters we need to charge for individual utilities. We will then go through a 1-year evaluation and mock billing period to give residents awareness of the costs.

Q: Will you be remodeling after a house is vacated?
A: The goal is to remodel upon turnover between occupants. Towards year 4 or 5 we may have to ask residents to move so we can meet the 6-year completion date.

Q: How does clearing housing work with GMH?
A: GMH standards are similar to those the AF currently uses. A full description of clearing housing is included in our handbook and will be available to members prior to signing their lease.

Q: What is the time frame for demolishing?
A: The phasing schedule is being worked. GMH is working with the Air Force to limit the impact on residents. With that consideration we are looking at 7 to 9 phases. We will have the phases plan at the town hall in October.

Q: What upgrades can we expect in Capehart housing?
A: No upgrades are scheduled for Capehart houses. Funds will be used for new facilities and remodeling. However, normal maintenance service will be provided to these units as well.

Q: I run a family childcare in my home. Is this still going to be allowed?
A: Yes. Home daycares are allowed to remain in housing as long as they follow GMH conditions and procedures. Home business information will be available with our resident specialists.

Q: Will GMH continue to allow residents to qualify for a new home if they have additions to the family?
A: Yes. This is in our management plan. If you qualify you will be allowed to transfer to a larger home.

Q: If it's determined we have to move who pays for the move and where do we move to?
A: GMH hopes to have another house on Vandenberg to transfer you into. That is the whole reason we are working a 7- to 9-phase plan versus three phases.

Q: If a member is required to relocate due to privatization development, will it be a paid move?
A: The initial requirement to relocate will be a government paid move, additional move requirements will be the PO's responsibility to fund.

Q: What about other areas for building on the 100,000 acres on Vandenberg so no one has to be sent downtown?
A: The infrastructure is in good shape and all the environmental requirements have been met for the West Housing area. Based on the reduced end state as a result of the Housing Research Market Analysis and the requirement to demo the Capehart units the decision was made by the AF to only convey the West Housing area.

Q: When we moved into our homes we completed an initial inspection what happens to that document?
A: That form will be transferred from the Air Force to GMH. We have a similar policy to the Air Force for normal/fair wear and tear verses neglect and damage.

Q: What about gophers in the housing area?
A: We will have a pest control contract to help with gophers.

Q: If we're required to move downtown will our BAH be increased?
A: No. However, the AF hires an independent contractor to complete an annual BAH survey to ensure BAH rates keep up with local market rental rates.

Q: How do we get maintenance completed?
A: Both preventative and routine maintenance efforts are handled by members of our team. 
-- Service orders may be either called in, dropped off at the community office or submitted via our website
-- Please provide a contact phone number in case of an emergency

Q: We're still on a waiting list for a 4-bedroom home. Will that list move to GMH?
A: Yes. We are working with the AF on the priority placements and will work to honor current waiting lists.

Q: Are you moving residents into a house even though you know they'll be torn down?
A: Yes. Some of the houses will remain in the inventory for 12 to 24 months before they are demolished and need to be filled during that time to ensure enough funding is generated to accomplish new construction and renovations.

Q: Will you be keeping neighborhoods based on ranks?
A: Yes. However during the initial development period, there may be assignments in other areas.

Q: If I'm forced to move downtown while a house is being built, can my children remain in Crestview or do they have to transfer schools?
A: To support temporary displacement, Lompoc School District will allow children to remain at Crestview on a case-by-case basis. Families who elect to purchase a home or stay downtown for the remainder of their tour will be expected to send their children to the school closest to their neighborhood.

Dr. Lynch, district superintendent, recommends parents work directly with school principals.

Neither the district nor the AF will provide transportation of students outside the area to school during this temporary time.

LSD has a "school of choice" program that does allow parents to request a specific school for their children to attend. The district assesses school population before approving any request. If we get to a point where families with school age children are required to move downtown wing leaders will work with families and the school district to resolve school concerns.

Q: Are there plans to allow civilians to move into our housing area?
A: Only if occupancy rates fall below certain levels for a predetermined amount of time. If this occurs the "waterfall" list may be implemented. That list includes "other" military members like unaccompanied members; other branches of service, Guard and Reserve personnel; civil service employees; retirees; and DoD contractors. The general public is the last tier on this "waterfall" list. If this should occur the rent will not be lower then the service members rent for the home.

Q: What about joint spouse couples?
A: GMH will collect the highest ranking members BAH with dependant rate, effectively allowing the family to pocket the difference.

Q: Several of our members currently qualify for free and reduced meals. With BAH added to our pay it will put us out of the program and cause hardship.
A: This has been addressed during previous deals and a ruling was made which ensures BAH will not affect any food programs.

Q: We're going from 501 to 160 base officer houses; how is that going to happen?
A: The AF determined the end state of 867 during the HRMA study in 2006. In addition, our deal allows the developer to retain 131 excess units for a total of 998 homes. The phasing plan will address the time frame for moves and the Housing referral office will assist in finding homes in the local community for those that will live off base.

Q: When can we get a copy of the GMH rules book?
A: Info will be available prior to and/or at lease signing.

Q: Will the garages have door openers?
A: Yes.

Q: Carpet in housing currently has a 7-year life cycle what is GMH policy for replacement?
A: Typical capital repairs are done at turnover of the home. We don't want to move all the furniture to re-carpet a home. The resident is still responsible for any damages and GMH will prorate some items.

Q: How is the lease signing going to work?
A: We will have a schedule for members to sign their lease. Each area will receive a notice to come in and sign their lease. We are working to use the Warrior Room at the Pacific Coast Club.

Q: Can we upgrade a home and pay out of pocket for a bigger home?
A: This is being negotiated with the AF.

Q: What is the ramification of not signing the lease?
A: We hope that is not the case. If you do not sign the lease you will have need to relocate to the local community before Nov. 1.

Q: Who pays for a move if I don't sign the lease?
A: This will be considered a government paid move.

Q: You're knocking down more homes then you're putting up. Who decided to do that?
A: OSD wants all branches of service to rely on the local community first for housing. The Housing Research Market Analysis conducted by the AF every 3 years takes this into consideration. The HRMA completed in 2006 found the community could support our needs except for 867 homes; in addition, Vandenberg has incorporated 131 "excess" units into the deal which will bring us to an end state of 998 homes. The next HRMA is tentatively scheduled for 2009.

Q: Who is looking out for our Airmen?
A: Vandenberg leadership and the housing office are working on behalf of our Airmen to ensure the best options are made for our residents. One of our biggest concerns was to move from a 3-phased plan to a 7-,8- or 9-phase plan. The details are still being worked and this is just one example of how the Air Force and GMH are negotiating as many win-win solutions as they can.

Q: Who will have priority in these houses?
A: Key and essential members will continue to have priority access to on-base housing. A waiting list will be used to determine priority for remaining homes.

Q: Why does mil-to-mil get paid to live in base housing?
A: BAH is a military member entitlement, just as if they were paying commercial rate for their home downtown.

Q: During the first phase will there be enough houses for members to remain on base?
A: We are still working those details. We will present the phasing plan at our October town hall meeting.

Q: The AF takes fair wear and tear into consideration is that GMH policy?
A: Yes.

Q: QAE on this contract?
A: The AF will provide oversight to ensure GMH complies with the closing documents. Additionally, an Management Review Committee will established to provide oversight on project issue.

Q: Enlisted housing: what happens to enlisted Airmen?
A: 703 JNCO units will be renovated and will meet current AF benchmarks.

Q: Appliances: what are we getting?
A: All renovated units will receive new appliances.

Q: Security? What about street lights?
A: Yes, GMH will maintain street lights.

Q: What about self help?
A: GMH will have a self help program.

Q: If I'm forced to move off base, do I go to the top of the list to get back on base or do I go to the bottom of the list?
A: This is still in negotiations with the AF.