News

Housing crunch to end soon

With continuing construction on military properties throughout Oak Harbor, the housing crunch on military and civilians alike is expected to ease, perhaps sooner than originally expected.

But any new vacancies created by the availability of military family housing units may soon be taken up by average civilian economic growth, said one Oak Harbor realtor and property manager.

The 200 new townhouse units under construction at Victory Park, the site of the old Victory Homes east of SE Regatta Road, are running ahead of schedule, and the first completed units should be ready for occupancy in mid-May, said the housing director for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Anne Baker said the contractor on the project may have all units done a full 11 months before the promised completion date of December 2003.

Additionally, homes that had been taken out of service for remodeling, at Maylor Capehart and at Crescent Capehart housing areas, are coming back “online,” Baker said.

However, the military population is not solely responsible for the limited availability of civilian rental homes, said George Churchill, of Churchill & Associates.

“It’s one of the major factors in the housing market here,” Churchill said. “It’s not the only factor.”

In fact, the military population over the years has remained somewhat unchanged. As military personnel move in, others transfer out, Churchill said.

“What has really happened over the years here is that the civilian economy has grown more and more,” Churchill said.

The vacancy rate on rental properties at his company is between two and four percent now, Churchill said. Certainly the availability of the full inventory of military family housing will ease the shortage of rental properties, but will not make the challenge go away, Churchill said.

“That’s why the city government really needs to be on the leading edge of providing opportunities for growth infrastructure and to become more service oriented than they have in the past,” Churchill said.

The biggest benefit to having military family housing back to its normal level will be for military families, Churchill said, and he is pleased by that.

“It’s been a real burden on military families,” Churchill said.

While the waiting list for E1 to E6 personnel to get into military family housing is anywhere from four months to 20 months, no new housing assignments for senior enlisted and officers is currently taking place due to renovations. There are now 178 senior enlisted and officers on the waiting list for the 181 houses set aside for those ranks, and no additional families are being added to those lists at this time. There are 378 E1 through E6 families waiting for one of the 1,169 housing units in inventory to become available.

The possibility of some of those families being able to move into brand new military family housing units as soon as three months from now is exciting and will offer a sense of relief, Baker said.

“We expect, reasonably, around the May time frame we’ll be getting the first units back online in Victory Park,” Baker said. “They seem to be springing up from out of the ground.”

While some projects are zipping along, others seem to be trudging.

The housing area called Maylor Capehart, which is for senior enlisted and officers, has been under renovation for nearly two years, Baker said. The original contractor defaulted on the project, placing the renovations about six months behind schedule.

“But the picture is getting better, because ... the new contractor is at work, and ... (there is) a six-month delay, but we are starting to get houses back,” Baker said. All Maylor Capehart renovations are scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2003.

Enlisted housing at Crescent Capehart has also been under renovations, further limiting the availability of military family housing. However, that project is scheduled for completion in October of this year.

“The Crescent Capehart project is going very, very well,” Baker said. “We’re really pleased with the progress out there. We’ve got 129 units involved in that project.”

While the Navy is still advising incoming personnel of the housing shortage in and around Oak Harbor, it is just a matter of time until military families will have to rely less on the civilian housing market.

“When we start getting (all) these units back ... I anticipate probably the enlisted people ... will almost literally have no waiting time at all,” Baker said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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