Creating better temporary housing for soldiers and their families

Jul 26, 2013

The men and women who serve our country are very mobile; on average, they relocate for a new assignment once every two or three years. And when they arrive at an Army base for a short-term stint, they typically stay in a hotel on the post.

Jamie Fox is an eight-year Army veteran and Bank of America Merrill Lynch executive whose team recently handled a recent bank loan to renovate thousands of such hotel rooms. The $465 million loan — one of many efforts the company has made to help military service members and their families — is being used to build and renovate thousands of units of temporary housing at 39 army posts across the U.S.

Fox says, “Calling these facilities ‘hotels’ is a bit of a misnomer. Hotel rooms don’t have the same function in the military world as they do in the commercial realm. You could have a family transitioning from one base to another, a service member on temporary duty at a base or someone getting extended training. All of them need a place to stay.”

Much of the hotel housing on Army bases is out of date and in need of repair. Not long ago, more than 80 percent of the Army’s hotel rooms needed replacement or renovation. The estimated cost was close to $1 billion, and if undertaken through normal channels it would have taken more than 20 years to bring hotel housing up to the military’s standards.

A partnership between the Army and private industry, the Privatization of Army Lodging program, was created to renovate and build temporary hotel housing and maintain it over the long term. With the renovated facilities, soldiers get updated, family-friendly and pet-friendly lodging—with such amenities as WiFi and flat-screen TVs—and the Army gets out of the business of managing real estate. And taxpayers save money because private businesses absorb the overhead expenses that the Army used to pay.

Through PAL, the private sector has been engaged to renovate thousands of hotel rooms, including ones at Fort Polk, Fort Hood and Fort Sill; this year, the $465 million Bank of America Merrill Lynch loan was finalized to build and renovate temporary housing at 39 posts. The bank provides financing to Lend Lease to build and renovate the units; after that, the InterContinental Hotels Group, a specialist in extended-stay hotels, takes over and operates the units.

The effort to renovate these facilities means accommodations will be available sooner and will be better maintained. With an all-volunteer Army, high-quality housing helps them retain the best people and provide a better quality of life for soldiers and their families.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch finalized a $465 million loan to build and renovate thousands of units of temporary housing at 39 army posts across the U.S.

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