For at least a decade, military families have battled so-called Public/Private Ventures (PPVs) on Department of Defense installations which allowed private real estate firms to build housing for soldiers and their dependents, then collect rent directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the form of the soldiers’ basic housing allowance. It was a low-risk, guaranteed payout for the real estate companies, but in building the houses on military bases across the country, it appears construction shortcuts led to long-lasting health issues for the families from factors like asbestos and black mold.
A recent article published by Reuters exposed one of the many PPVs involved, John Picerne of the Corvias Group. NEWSREP did a follow-up podcast interview with Army and Marine Corps wives which further exposed how difficult it has been for military families to get housing issues corrected. It details the complete lack of accountability for PPVs due to the various branches of the service retaliating and stifling service members from complaining. It is even alleged soldiers have received negative professional evaluation reports from the Army because they complained about health issues in the corporate military housing.
The media scrutiny has led to a Congressional hearing as well as the airing of additional information and grievances about PPVs on military bases. In a letter to the U.S. Senate, Cara Barber, the wife of a retired Marine, revealed how the military was declaring questionable homes to be healthy and livable without any quantitative data being collected, such as environmental testing.
“When the immense financial resources, power and influence of two multi-billion dollar corporations, Hunt Companies and Forest City Realty Trust, are combined with those of their two U.S. military service partners, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and all are brought to bear against you and the truth, you and the truth may not have good odds,” Barber wrote.
Sources have also forwarded documents to NEWSREP, revealing non-disclosure agreements given to service members which would award them a payment of $1,500 if they agreed to drop any pending complaints. Other documents obtained by NEWSREP show a PPV, The Michaels Organization, was willing to waive early termination of lease fees ($4,524) if the service member agreed never to sue them. Barber related in her letter to the Senate how Hunt Companies and Forest City Reality Trust made her a settlement offer if she agreed not to sue and to remove any social media posts about her complaints.
Taken together, it appears PPVs are attempting to buy their way out of what has now become a public scandal. Many lower enlisted service members may accept a small payment or the waiving of an early termination fee. That is, provided they haven’t consulted an attorney or had their families examined by a doctor to be informed of their potential long-term health effects from living in houses contaminated with black mold, asbestos, or other hazardous material.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military does not appear to be taking any steps to protect service members from this type of predatory behavior by housing developers.