It’s that time of year for residents of military housing: Watch your email for an invitation to participate in the annual DoD housing satisfaction survey.
This year’s new, revamped survey is standardized across the military branches, as required by law, and will allow for a more accurate measure of tenant satisfaction, according to DoD officials.
The survey invitation is being emailed to about 300,000 people, according to information submitted to the Office of Management and Budget: one person per address in government-owned, government-leased, or privatized family housing and current residents of privatized unaccompanied housing. The services haven’t historically surveyed residents of government-owned unaccompanied housing, but service officials are reviewing their processes to potentially survey all residents of unaccompanied housing in the future, according to DoD officials.
The confidential survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.
“Resident feedback is important to help the department improve the quality of housing and customer care available to residents,” said W. Jordan Gillis, DoD’s chief housing officer, in an announcement about the survey.
“While your participation is voluntary, I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to provide your input to help us improve your housing experience,” Gillis wrote, in a memo to residents which will be included in the emailed survey invitation. “The DoD is committed to improving your resident experience and we welcome and value your candid input.”
Each military service branch will announce the specific December launch date of their survey; the survey will remain open for responses for at least 45 days. For example, the Army launched its survey Dec. 2 and will be open through Jan. 15. Response rates have varied. For example, the response rate for the Army’s housing survey conducted in the same time frame in 2019 was 24.6 percent of privatized housing units, and 23 percent of Army-owned or Army-leased units. For those living in Navy privatized housing units, the response rate was 35 percent.
Defense officials say residents should contact their installation’s military housing office if their household doesn’t receive an email with a survey link by Dec. 18.
The Government Accountability Office and others have been critical of the housing surveys, which, if done correctly, are essential for DoD to provide needed oversight over housing for its service members. In March, the GAO recommended that DoD and the military services develop a process for collecting and calculating resident satisfaction data “to ensure that the data are compiled and calculated in a standardized and accurate way.”
This new survey uses standardized questions across all military department and housing types, consistent with requirements in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, according to a DoD email response to Military Times.
“Past surveys included questions unique to each military service or housing type. The use of updated, standardized questions will ensure greater comparability of the survey results across DoD’s housing portfolio and provide a more accurate measure of tenant satisfaction, augmented by enhanced DoD internal controls,” DoD officials stated.
The survey email will come from independent third-party consulting firms that are administering the feedback collection, tabulation and analysis. CEL & Associates Inc., will conduct the survey for the Army, Navy and Air Force housing; and Robert D. Neihaus, Inc. (RDN) is conducting it for Marine Corps housing.
All responses are confidential, and won’t be linked to the overall results shared with DoD or the information that DoD shares with privatized housing companies or others.
The results of the survey will help shape plans for near-term and future improvements to housing, resident services and community amenities, officials said.
It’s been nearly two years since news reports of mold, vermin, water leaks and other problems in privatized housing prompted hearings where military spouses testified. Some of the key problems identified were lack of military and DoD oversight of the privatized housing, lack of a military point of contact to help them get action on unanswered maintenance requests and concerns, and issues with misleading housing surveys.
DoD and the services have taken a number of steps to improve housing. Other requirements are still in limbo, such as the final provisions of the tenant bill of rights which set up a mechanism for tenant disputes, and a process for withholding rent from landlords during disputes.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.