An on-base housing crisis for active-duty military families at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence has forced the private property manager to terminate leases for other families, including veterans, who had been living in off-base housing.
In response to questions from Military.com, LendLease Corp., the parent firm of Atlantic Marine Corps Communities (AMCC), said it sent 30-day notices of lease termination to non-military AMCC residents "in efforts to mitigate the housing crisis caused by Hurricane Florence" while repairs are made.
"Our first priority remains to the active-duty military families that live with AMCC," a spokeswoman for Australia-based LendLease Group LLC said in a statement. As a subsidiary of LendLease, AMCC manages housing at the Marine bases at Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point through a partnership with the U.S. Navy.
"Due to the effects of Hurricane Florence, a large volume of homes were impacted across the AMCC North Carolina locations, leaving 70 percent of our housing inventory having received some level of damage," the LendLease statement said.
"As of today, we have more than 800 military families who have either relocated to a home within the AMCC housing community, are scheduled to relocate to a home, have been placed in temporary lodging or will be placed in temporary lodging while repairs are performed on their home," the statement said.
"We are working with each military family individually to address the damages to their home and provide them with lodging or permanent reassignment to a new address" if their home was significantly damaged, it continued. "AMCC has a recovery plan, supported by our Navy Partner, and is working diligently to rebuild our community."
One of the housing complexes where 30-day notices were given is Slocum Neighborhood Village in Havelock, North Carolina, near Marine Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Local ABC-TV News channel WCTI-12 reported Wednesday that Slocum residents included active-duty and reserve military members, veterans, contractors, Defense Department civilians and surviving military spouses.
In response to a posting by a Slocum resident who charged earlier this week that "you are wrongfully kicking people out and making them become homeless," AMCC said in a Facebook posting that it had the right to terminate leases for residents who had been tenants for more than a year upon 30 days' notice.
"While this decision was incredibly difficult, our mission has always been to ensure that we can prioritize housing for our active-duty military families stationed at Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point," AMCC said.
In a separate statement Oct. 10, AMCC said the storm that hovered over North Carolina for several days in mid-September "damaged a large part of our housing inventory, resulting in a housing crisis where we are now faced with a lack of habitable homes."
Nat Fahy, a spokesman for Lejeune, the largest Marine installation on the East Coast, said AMCC manages 4,644 units of on-base housing at Lejeune and another 1,538 at Cherry Point.
He said the base has held several information sessions for families who evacuated before Florence hit, returned to find their homes damaged, and are seeking other accommodations. The most recent information session was held Wednesday, he said.
"At every step, we've tried to ensure that people had as much access to information as possible," Fahy said.
He did not immediately have a figure on the number of Lejeune families who have been unable to return to their homes.
On its website, AMCC said moves to base housing at Lejeune by newly reporting personnel had been halted "to enable active-duty military families to relocate from severely damaged homes to vacant homes within our housing areas. Even with these efforts, the housing shortage for active-duty military families affected by the storm remains."
During Florence, Lejeune allowed anyone with DoD identification to shelter on the base. At the height of the storm on Sept. 13, about 148 people were at four shelters on the base, Fahy said. The number went down to 125 on Sept. 14 and to 34 on Sept. 28, he added.
By Oct. 2, there were 13 families -- a total of 31 people -- being housed at French Creek Barracks 65 on base, Fahy said. On Oct. 16, the shelter closed, but not before Lejeune staff received assurances from those leaving that they had a follow-on housing plan, he said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.