(File Photo)

By Thomas Brading, Army News Service

Results from a recent tenant survey show that overall customer satisfaction is improving, senior Army housing officials said, as the service continues to improve on-base living conditions.

For the first time, this year’s Tenant Satisfaction Survey was standardized across all military branches following a change in the National Defense Authorization Act to help paint a clearer picture of the state of military housing.

Over 85,000 Army households took part in the anonymous questionnaire, an increase from previous years, said Kevin Drescher, Army Family Housing inventory program manager, adding it had an array of positive results.

The results provide officials an idea of how to improve family quality of life on installations, he said. The survey also offers a snapshot of how families gauge recent changes.

At a glance, it seems “people are pleased with the changes made last year,” said Shenise Foster, housing systems and privatized housing program manager, who added transparency between housing officials and residents has been the most striking improvement.

Foster credited several recent changes. Last year, the Army launched a hotline to help residents voice their concerns and unveiled a government-owned smartphone app to help schedule and monitor work orders, among other changes.

Besides transparency, Drescher said accessibility to housing officials has improved customer satisfaction. However, he said it is still too early to analyze how trends will inspire future changes.

“We’ve had multiple town halls that have been conducted quarterly,” he said, across installations worldwide. “[The town halls] give tenants another voice to express their opinions or bring up problems they have been having. There is a lot more engagement from the chain of command and the housing offices with the residents.”

How it worked

The survey was carried out by CEL & Associates Inc., an independent, third-party organization funded by the Defense Department. It was distributed to all privatized, government-owned and government-leased housing tenants to rate their satisfaction with services, property and the overall housing experience online.

Residents had 45 days to fill out the anonymous annual housing survey, which was released on a rolling schedule starting in early December, varied by service, and took roughly 10 minutes to complete.

“The more people we got to take the survey, the more accurate of a snapshot we got,” Drescher said, adding it could help officials drive change, set goals, and understand what residents love about their communities or what to improve on.

“Every comment is read and reviewed to help make any improvements to the housing experience for tenants, but if people don’t take the survey, then we don’t know,” he said.

Now with the survey concluded, the outside organization has analyzed the data and provided metrics to all military services. Following a military review, non-personally identifiable results were shared with military housing offices and privatized housing landlords.

Military leaders will use the data to make strides toward near-term and future plans that will improve housing, resident service, community amenities and other decisions and investments regarding privatized housing, Foster said.

Tenant rights

The latest survey came on the heels of the Army addressing 15 of the 18 tenant rights outlined in last year’s Military Housing Privatization Initiative, or MHPI, Tenant Bill of Rights. The three unaddressed rights did not have a unilateral action option by the Army.

Of the 18 rights, the Army implemented 14 since last September. The remaining rights, such as standard documentation on a universal lease, require the MHPI companies’ voluntary agreement to implement, housing officials said.

Due to the working collaboration between the Army and its MHPI companies, the efforts to implement the remaining rights were successful, and the majority of the MHPI companies agreed to implement the outstanding housing rights by June 1.

From town halls held at local installations to adhering to guidance by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the goal is the same: improving the quality of life for military families, Foster said.

Analyzing the results will be the next step in enhancing the trust and accountability in providing safe homes that take care of the Army’s most valuable asset -- its Soldiers and their families, Foster said.

“Your voice matters and we’re listening,” she said.