Thursday, 1 May 2008

Housing complaints still roll in from service families

The Army Families Federation has reported a sharp rise in the number of complaints it receives about military accommodation. Almost 60% of all complaints are currently about housing problems compared with about 40% in 2005.
In the AFF survey of February 2008, 56% of respondents said that, when moving into Service Family Accommodation (SFA), they found their new homes were not of an acceptable standard (due to dirtiness, stained and smelly carpeting, leaks, faulty lighting, etc). When complaints were raised with MODern Housing Solutions (MHS, the private company that now manages military housing) they only arranged to have 24% of the properties cleaned, the other 76% were ignored. The survey was completed in the main by families moving into SFA between early 2006 and January 2008; if the accommodation was in need of repair, 38% of families said that this work had still not been carried out.
It is not just about the state of the housing stock itself that an increasing number of complaints are being made; the rundown condition of the military housing estates themselves has also come in for much criticism. The AFF reports that graffiti, vandalism, rats, fly tipping and broken street lighting all contribute to make service communities feel unsafe and insecure and that derelict and run down play areas strewn with broken glass are putting children at risk. Prior to privatisation, dedicated wardens used to look after military housing estates providing visible security for service families. Since MHS took over the management of military housing in 2006, estate wardens are no longer used - apparently this is because the MoD failed to stipulate them in the maintenance contract and MHS naturally saves money by not employing them. As with all such privatisation deals, the commercial company will only provide the minimum that's stated in the contract - anything more would be lost profit.
Reminiscent of statistics which once emanated from the offices of GOSPLAN, the MoD however reports that its latest repair performance figures show that:
  • 99% of calls to the repair helpdesk are responded to within two minutes;
  • 99% of Emergency, Urgent and Routine repairs are completed within the right timescales; and
  • 99% of properties meet the required move-in standard for Service families.
The MoD states: "We are committed to providing the highest standard of accommodation for our Armed Forces and their families. That's why we are spending over £8bn on accommodation in the next decade" - lucky MHS.