HILL AIR FORCE BASE — When Staff Sgt. Elenita Suafoa was stationed at Hill Air Force Base three years ago, she looked at housing options on and off the base, but discovered on-base housing would accommodate her family better.
Not only did it accommodate Suafoa and her two sons, she was surprised at the nice arrangements. “I have family and friends stationed elsewhere and in showing them pictures of my house, they were jealous because mine is a whole lot nicer,” Suafoa said.
One of the reasons for such upgraded housing options at Hill AFB is that housing on base, once managed by the Air Force, has now been converted to a privatized situation. This month, Boyer Hill privatized housing is celebrating 10 years on base.
When Boyer Hill first started at HAFB, homes from the ’50s and ’60s were so run-down that over 600 homes were demolished. Since then, Boyer Hill has constructed more than 400 new homes and renovated or remodeled another 500. Now the base has over 1,000 two-, three- and four-bedroom homes for military and their families. Any remaining units are used for guard and reserve, civilian workforce and military retirees.
“We would never have been able to do that without the privatization because it was a struggle across the Air Force with older houses that weren’t being maintained or upgraded due to lack of government dollars,” said Allen Fry, Chief, Installation Management Division, 75th Civil Engineer Group.
“When the Air Force owned the homes, money was tight and they didn’t get a lot of money to invest back into homes. The money we make now we put back into the homes and add amenities,” Hill AFB Housing Manager Lareen Parkinson said, adding that now all stateside military bases have privatized their housing. “It is an initiative to bring the homes up to standards and provide quality of life living for our Airmen.”
The housing group on base has received several awards this year because of its endeavors. The 75th Civil Engineer Group Housing Flight and Boyer Hill Military Housing at Hill Air Force Base received the Outstanding Housing Installation Team of the Year and the Air Force Professional Housing Management Association Award.
The annual award recognizes professional housing teams across all branches of service. The Hill AFB housing team was one of only four Air Force-wide to receive an excellent rating for the housing privatization project, a lease transaction for the last 50 years between the Air Force and a private developer, who owns and maintains the homes.
The awards came in part because the team keeps a high fill rate of the units, with quality service and maintenance standards.
Another benefit for military living on base is the sense of community that is felt within their neighborhoods. “It’s been good to have a support system here, especially as a single parent,” Suafoa said. “They understand the things you are going through, and we form a really close family and help each other out when we need help.”
For others leaving on deployment, knowing their family will be taken care of is a big stress-reliever, Davis says. “Everyone in their neighborhood knows what it feels like with a deployment and we help their family so the deployed member is not worried about such things like broken dishwashers and a landlord fighting back,” Davis said.
He recalls hearing of one mother who had to finish a few months of technical school in a different state and the arrangement she had for her children on base fell through, so one of her neighbors took in her children for the duration. “I couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even skip a beat, just instantaneously said they were willing,” Davis said.
Parkinson says she has families who leave base for other housing, then find their way back on base. “They enjoy their experience so much and want to come back to be part of a community, not that they aren’t happy in the community, but they want to be part of an installation and have neighbors that are also military,” Parkinson said.
To celebrate 10 years of privatized housing on base, Boyer Hill Housing is hosting a free BBQ event with food and activities on Sept. 17 at Patriot Hills Park from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for current and previous housing residents and base leadership.