“Out with the old, in with the new,” was the day’s theme as the first military families began their moves from Eglin Air Force Base’s aging housing into privatized homes last week.
Master Sgt. Kenny Ketcham and his family were the first on his street to move in — a decision the 19-year veteran said was worth waiting for.
“I inquired about moving into a bigger house on base and I was given two options – move into a bigger, older house, or wait for a new one. I chose the latter,” said Ketcham. “My wife and my son are ecstatic about the new house.”
Ketcham’s previous home was a two bedroom, one bath home built in the 1950s. His, along with the remaining Eglin homes had infrastructure, electrical and plumbing issues that would have required complete remodeling to modernize them to today’s appeal.
“Efforts to privatize base housing have been ongoing since 2002, with natural disasters and economic issues delaying the process,” said Kathy Lawhon, branch chief for the Eglin housing initiative. “We’re really excited for the families – it’s been a long time coming.”
Military housing privatization has been around since 1996.
The privatization initiative, established by Congress, allowed the Department of Defense to work with the private sector to modernize military family housing to improve living conditions and provide quality affordable housing for service members.
Eglin’s homes are leased to service members by the contractor building and maintaining the homes, Corvias Military Living.
“When complete, there will be 747 new homes here,” said Col. Craig Johnson, commander of the 96th Civil Engineer Group at Eglin. “This is part of a larger effort that will continue to modernize our facilities and infrastructure to serve our research, development, test and evaluation efforts for the next 50 years.”
According to Lawhon, target tenants for Eglin’s privatized housing are active duty military of any branch of service with dependent basic housing allowance rates. The new development will include multiple playgrounds, a dog-friendly “bark” park, a community center with a fitness room, and a pool. The entire community is estimated to be completed by 2019.
“We’ve lived in base housing for the majority of my career – we have never had the pleasure of living in a new house, on or off base,” said Ketcham. “Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think we’re going to enjoy the new neighborhood.”