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Army Housing Shortage in Grafenwohr, Vilseck
Stars and Stripes | Seth Robson | June 28, 2007

Army Buildup in Grafenwöhr, Vilseck Leads to Housing Shortage

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Hundreds of military families, including some whose soldiers are due to deploy to Iraq in August, face an average wait of up to three months for housing due to shortages exacerbated by the U.S. Army’s rapid buildup in Grafenwöhr and Vilseck.

Albert Schunk, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr’s acting chief of housing, said in a news statement Wednesday that 332 families are waiting for permanent housing within the garrison and that the average wait time for a house is two to three months.

Of the 332 families, 114 are residing “in hotels (on or off post); hotel-like accommodations (pensions, bed and breakfasts, etc.); or with family or friends,” the statement read.

Deployment News and Resources

Those families are slated to receive permanent housing first.

One of the affected families is that of 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldier Sgt. Daniel Moreno, who has lived with his wife, Carol and 15-month-old son, Matthew, at Vilseck’s on-post hotel, the Kristall Inn, since they arrived in Germany on May 9.

Carol Moreno said Grafenwöhr housing officials told her the family will not get even temporary housing before September and that there are 100 other families in the same boat.

“We are living out of suitcases. Our household goods are in storage. We are not allowed to touch them until we get housing. It’s been a nightmare,” said Carol Moreno as she cared for Matthew in the Kristall Inn lobby.

The fact that they won’t get a house before Daniel deploys to Iraq in August means he won’t be around to help the family move in, Carol said.

The family was not told about the housing shortages or the upcoming deployment before they came to Germany, she said.

“The Army should have told us up front what is going on. We were sent here on concurrent orders which means the family comes with you because there is supposed to be a house waiting. If we had known there was no housing, we would not have come,” she said.

The family signed up for sponsorship before leaving the States but no sponsor has shown up since they arrived in Germany, Carol Moreno said.

The hotel stay has been frustrating for the Morenos, who have watched officers’ families arrive at the hotel, stay for a couple of weeks, then move to their new homes. Officials told the family they are too small to qualify for three-bedroom houses and that there are no two-bedroom houses available, she said.

“The Army claims to be so caring for soldiers’ families. This certainly doesn’t prove it and it has really left a bad taste in our mouth for U.S. Army Europe,” she said.

Housing shortages are nothing new at Grafenwöhr and Vilseck. Last year the garrison’s housing office ditched a plan to house new arrivals within a 30-minute drive off post and started offering troops homes as far as 45 minutes away.

The garrison recently acquired 88 units in the new military housing area at Netzaberg but these will not be able to accommodate the soldiers and family members arriving at Grafenwöhr this summer with units relocating from other parts of Germany.

“We’ve already committed all of the 88 units to waiting families,” Schunk said.

Housing assignments are based on rank and bedroom requirements, he said. For example, the number of children in a family is one factor in determining what type of unit/how many bedrooms a family will receive. The other factor is grade category. Field grade officers (O-4 and above), for example, are not necessarily eligible for units that senior enlisted noncommissioned officers (E-7 to E-9) may be eligible for, he said.

Grafenwöhr’s director of public works Tom Hays said the most in-demand units are typically three and four-bedroom units.

The extended waits are more of a timing factor than a housing shortage, Hays said. The waits are, in part, due to the annual summer surge, when high numbers of military families are making permanent-change-of-station moves, he said.

“It really is a matter of timing. If enough people arrive before other people move, then we’re going to have these waits. But we are making the assignments from the waiting list and a fair allocation of houses based on the list,” Hays said.

“I understand that people are anxious, but we’re doing our best to get them into quarters as soon as they become available, and we do expect to have enough houses for everyone until a little later in the year.”

Placing waiting families into private rental quarters for a short period is not an option, and would have a negative impact on future soldiers, he said.

“If we place people at this time in private rental quarters and then have to move them out in 60 or 90 days, the landlords are going to be very upset,” Hays said. “They expect one-year leases; they’re not set up as hotels. So we’re trying to balance that out — what’s best for the families, the housing market and the Army.”


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Housing Completed or Under Construction

The Army has received 88 out of 880 build-to-lease military homes at Netzaberg and will receive another 78 units in August.

Another 82 units will be handed over in early September, 76 more in early October, followed by an additional 76 units in mid-October.

The following are among the several government-housing areas newly completed or under construction:

  • Erbendorf (71 units, approximately 9 miles north of Pressath)
  • Kulmain (all 40 units were recently completed and assigned to waiting families)
  • Steinfels (40 units: 30 have recently been occupied and the remaining 10 units will be handed over to the garrison by the end of July)

Plans also have been approved to transform four large stairwell buildings at Vilseck into large-dwelling units. Buildings 1690, 1695, 1400, and 1405 will be ready for occupancy this fall. Walls will be knocked down in these buildings, he said, to combine and enlarge apartments to help satisfy the garrison’s five-bedroom requirements.

Another option being studied by housing officials is to assign families in high-demand (three-bedroom junior and senior enlisted) categories to categories that have available quarters.

For example, a family with a three-bedroom requirement might be housed in a four-bedroom unit if there is no waiting list for the four-bedroom unit and it fits the family’s grade requirements.

— Seth Robson

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