Fort Eustis Housing Open to Civilians

A U.S. Army Landing Craft Vessel provides a bird's eye view of 3rd Port, Fort Eustis, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt First Class Kelly J. Bridgwater)
A U.S. Army Landing Craft Vessel provides a bird's eye view of 3rd Port, Fort Eustis, Va. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt First Class Kelly J. Bridgwater)

If you favor living in a gated community, Fort Eustis might be your best option -- the declining military presence there is forcing some of the on-post housing to open to civilians.

"You can't get more of a gated community than Fort Eustis," said Christina Sonnier, community manager at Fort Eustis. "Any of the properties off post can say, you know, 'private, gated.' But try coming through our gate."

Fort Eustis Family Housing, managed privately by Balfour Beatty Communities, first opened a limited number of its 881 rental homes in April to military retirees and civilian Department of Defense employees to fill vacancies left by downsizing and budget cuts. But occupancy rates haven't rebounded, so this month, it opened the gates to civilians.

Fort Eustis is the 22nd Army installation to open housing to civilians, according to Sonnier.

Sonnier said the community should ideally stay at a 95 percent occupancy in order to pay its bills and save for future construction and renovation costs. Balfour Beatty Communities has been able to maintain that rate in the 11 years since partnering with the Army to manage Fort Eustis' properties -- until recently.

Fort Eustis Family Housing, managed privately by Balfour Beatty Communities, recently made a limited number of its 881 on-post rental homes available to civilians.

Sonnier wouldn't disclose the current occupancy rate citing competition.

"So our average was 95 percent all those years, and it just dipped in the last year to year-and-a-half," Sonnier said. "We have less military here to live in the homes than we did two years ago."

In 2013, Fort Eustis' workforce totaled 10,662 with about 6,349 active-duty soldiers, according to the latest combined analysis of Joint Base Langley Eustis. Earlier this year, when the Army announced its latest force reductions, the total number of people working on post had shrunk by about 280, while the active-duty component had plummeted by nearly half to 3,696.

Fort Eustis Family Housing recently made some of its on-post rental homes available to civilians. Post housing manager said fewer soldiers are living in these homes due to military downsizing and other market conditions.

Fort Eustis Family Housing recently made some of its on-post rental homes available to civilians. Post housing manager said fewer soldiers are living in these homes due to military downsizing and other market conditions.

The news in July that Eustis would only lose 94 people, mostly soldiers, came as a relief after the Army spent more than a year looking at possibly cutting up to 3,400 active duty and 750 civilians at Eustis. But more cuts loom as the service tries to trim its ranks.

Fort Eustis has nine villages located on the 7,870-acre installation. Only two have units available to civilians: Inchon and LeHarve. They are some of the oldest homes on post but have been renovated and account for more than a quarter of the total housing stock.

Inchon is located just inside the main gate off Fort Eustis Boulevard near the U.S. Army Transportation Museum. Its three- or five-bedroom town homes include 1.5 baths, a fenced-in backyard and outside storage for about $1,480 a month. LeHarve's three- to four-bedroom town homes are located near the Warwick Boulevard entrance and run about $1,545. Rent includes utilities and landscaping, except for the backyard, as well as 24-hour maintenance.

"We have a lot of benefits to living here," Sonnier said. "We have a bowling alley. We have a golf course. We have riding stables."

There is also a putt-putt course and go-cart track on post; a splash park for the little ones and bark park for family pets. The installation gym is open to residents during hours not used for military physical training. Plus, there's the security of living on an Army post.

But there will be a few quirks that civilians unaffiliated with the military will have to get used to, such as the morning wake-up call when reveille is played and all traffic must stop, and that they won't have access to the PX or commissary for groceries.

Priority for housing is given to military members with dependents, then single soldiers, retirees and those who work on post. Some of the remaining vacancies are being offered to civilians. The other villages, including a $21 million community completed in March, are divided by rank.

Curt Savoy, project director for Balfour Beatty, said it's mostly private dollars that fund housing projects on Fort Eustis. The inventory is based on the Army's need and the ability of the civilian sector outside the gate to meet that need.

With the most recent village, Marseilles, more than 100 older homes were torn down and only 85 new ones were built -- a smaller number to reflect the downsized force, Savoy said.

The company shops around for private loans and dips into its reserve fund, while the Army foots the bill for whatever is left over.

Since Balfour Beatty took over in 2004, about $150 million has been spent on housing construction, Savoy said. But the Army pays about $1 for every $6 that the company spends. So that's about $25 million from taxpayers.

Sonnier said there was some concern from soldiers and their families when it was first announced that non-military civilians could be living on post. After assuring them that this would have no affect on security, she said most were satisfied.

To live on base, civilians will have to go through credit and criminal background checks by the management company and military police. Once they are screened and move in, they will be given a resident access card to get on and off base with ease, although they still have to stop at the gates as do soldiers. But any visitors have to enter through the visitor entrance and have their cars searched.

Individuals or families interested in living on Fort Eustis should contact Balfour Beatty Communities leasing office at 757-369-8335 or visit forteustishousing.com.

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