Col. Kyle Reed, Fort Bragg garrison commander, hosted a housing media roundtable at a home in the Hammond Hills neighborhood, Wednesday, to discuss the current state of housing issues. The main focus of the discussion was how the garrison, Directorate of Public Works Housing (DPW), and Corvias are working together to create a resolution to mold and housing problems at Fort Bragg.
“A significant challenge has been understanding what is truly going on,” said Reed. “That’s where we were a month ago when this all arose. What are the significant impacts on Families’ lives on a day-to-day basis that we need to address? We had to understand where we were to be able to formulate the way forward.”
Since February, the Army directed command visits and inspections of residences, which Fort Bragg has conducted throughout the last month. The inspections highlighted areas of housing that needed to be fixed and updated, as well as, a place for leadership on the installation to start asking questions. As an example, houses in Hammond Hills have seen refurbishment in the last decade, but some of the electrical outlets are two-prong instead of three-prong.
“We had to have a consideration for that plug,” Reed said. “Is this house grounded? This house was refurbished a few years ago, so why was that left out of the mix? That’s what we are here to do now, understanding what is going on in these residences before they are back for consideration for Families to move in.”
The inspections have resulted in a significant increase in the workload for Corvias, who provides the privatized houses on the installation and addresses work orders, and DPW Housing, who provides oversight of Corvias, inspections, and is the Garrison advocate between service members and Corvias.
During the initial housing agreement with Corvias in 2003, DPW Housing had enough inspecting staff to conduct oversight on Corvias and housing concerns. Since 2012, the number of staff decreased significantly from 82 to nine in DPW Housing, and only two who work in the Residential Communities Initiative area (Family Housing). Corvias as well has seen a decrease in employee numbers.
“The project has had some economic challenges, including the rise of construction and utility costs,” said Sharon Shores, Fort Bragg Corvias director. “In an effort to promote long-term sustainability, we [made decisions] to reduce expenses. This turned into fewer staff, less communication with the residents and a lower touch service. Unfortunately those things have consequences.”
Shores added that Corvias is now adding 51 new staffing positions, in an effort to improve the current issues.
DPW Housing is also increasing its staff by adding seven permanent and 15 temporary positions. These positions include more inspection staff to oversee repairs Corvias is making to on-post housing.
Industrial Hygiene from Womack has also been working to improve housing concerns. Mold testing on houses began in February and are currently still on going. So far, 23 residents have requested mold testing at their homes, and an additional 60 homes have been identified as having issues including potential mold.
“We have a total inventory of 6,150 Family homes, we have 432 one-and-two-bedroom apartments that Corvias manages,” said Greg Jackson, DPW Housing manager.
“While we do have issues in homes with mold, it hasn’t been wide spread across all of them. Often, when we have mold conditions, we’ve found that things have happened to the home.”
Jackson added of the damaged houses, 40 percent of them can be attributed to the hurricanes from last fall. Last year, 1,300 homes on post were impacted by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. The damage from those storms overwhelmed the Corvias and DPW Housing staffs.
“In a lot of ways, we still hadn’t recovered from Hurricane Matthew,” Reed said. “We are attempting to recover from all of that and to put systems in place, so this doesn’t happen again. We don’t want to make fixes now and, in five years, we’re sitting together here and doing the same thing.”
Some of the improvements Garrison initiated include building a DPW Housing website as another communication tool for on-post residents to get more information and to contact members from DPW Housing, the DPW Housing Advocate 24/7 line at (910) 908-4504 for service members and their Families, and conducting home inspections to ensure the quality control and quality assurance of every home before it is occupied is underway.
If Soldiers and Families are experiencing issues and concerns in reference to their home, they should contact Corvias and place a work order.
“We are committed to being accessible, and we want people to reach out,” Shores said. “There are five ways to reach Corvias. Residents can go online to the Corvias website or email Corvias at email@example.com. Calling the internal Corvias call center during business hours will connect residents to a Fort Bragg Corvias representative, someone who knows the installation. Residents can visit or call any of the local community center offices, five more of which will be open beginning Friday, or they can contact the Corvias corporate office in Rhode Island.”
If residents continue to have issues after placing a work order to Corvias, they can contact the DPW Housing Office at (910) 394-5334.
“Corvias had become synonymous with housing,” Jackson said. “When residents say, ‘I went to housing,’ they were really talking about going to Corvias, instead of coming to the Housing office on the installation, which works for the Garrison. DPW Housing is all things housing for service members, and we are the Soldiers’ advocate for their relationship with Corvias.”
Twenty-seven Families have been displaced from their homes since February. Of those, four Families have elected to move off post, 10 moved into newer homes, and 13 are currently in temporary housing.