With fewer active-duty soldiers moving onto Fort Bragg, the company that operates post housing will try to increase its occupancy rate by opening 300 to 350 homes to military retirees and civilian defense employees starting Dec. 1.
Corvias Military Living, which took over Fort Bragg’s housing under a 50-year contract in 2003, said the move is a financial decision that will allow the private Rhode Island-based company to continue to reinvest in the housing stock on base. Already, the company has spent more than $588 million renovating and rebuilding existing houses and apartments on base and building new ones.
But hundreds of those have been sitting empty as soldiers leave Fort Bragg – or get out of the Army entirely – and new soldiers don’t move in to replace them, a result of military downsizing.
Corvias has a goal of 95 percent occupancy in the housing it operates at Bragg and other military bases around the country. The rate began to slip last fall, and is about 88 percent now.
“This is an excellent opportunity for us,” said Gary Kalinofski, a retired Army officer and now senior vice president of military affairs for Corvias. At a press conference held inside a renovated 1960s-era home on post that will be among those made available, he said the company had been considering the move for months.
Other military bases, including New River Air Station in North Carolina, already have opened some of their housing to renters who are not active-duty service members.
Col. Jeffrey M. Sanborn, garrison commander at Fort Bragg, said he expects military retirees to take many of the homes, which will range from two to four bedrooms. Rents will start around $1,100, comparable to rents for same-size homes in nearby Fayetteville, but those on post will include utilities, worth up to about $400 a month, as well as 24-hour maintenance and access to community centers in the four neighborhoods that will be opened up. Corvias has been using these perks in marketing materials this year to try to lure renters from off-post housing.
A Fort Bragg address comes with something else that rentals outside the gates can’t always offer: a community of people who understand military life.
The Department of Defense says there were almost 91,000 military retirees living in North Carolina as of Sept. 30, 2013. Of those, about 42,000 were retired Army, and about 17,000 of that group were over age 65.
In addition to the 47,000 to 48,000 active-duty service members assigned to Fort Bragg, the base also has about 14,500 civilian employees. Some of those also may apply to live on post now, to be closer to work and to enjoy the amenities. Civilian families living on post will have the added benefit of being able to enroll their children in base schools if they choose.
There is often overlap between the two groups, as military retirees go to work as civilian defense employees.
That’s what Staff Sgt. Gregory Pascal hopes to do when he takes medical retirement early next year. He had hoped to make a longer career of the Army, where he is a leader in field artillery unit, but after 11 years will leave with a back injury. He would like to get a job working with Army Community Services when he retires.
He has been based at Fort Bragg for more than eight years, and he and his wife, Suzanne, have lived in their current home on post for the past two years. The change in the rules will allow them to remain there.
“I like the camaraderie,” Suzanne Pascal said, and it’s comforting to know that if something goes wrong in their home, she can call for a repair. Her two youngest children can walk to school, the family is close to All American Chapel, where they attend church services, and it’s easy to shop at post stores, where items are discounted.