Navy closes barracks, sailors stuck with expensive housing options

Junior enlisted sailors assigned to Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., are looking to move into expensive trailers or off-base apartments now that the base has closed a barracks for renovations and repairs.

Military.com reporter Konstantin Toropin first reported about the barracks closing for about 60 young enlisted sailors, prompting some people to post on social media that the existing the lack of affordable housing in and around Naval Air Station Key West is only getting worse.

Naval Air Station Key West is demolishing one of its two unaccompanied living quarters and performing $11 million in maintenance on the other building for sailors in E-1 pay grades to E-3 as well as E-4 sailors with less than four years of service, said Arwen FitzGerald, spokeswoman for Naval Region Southeast. About 19 of the 60 displaced sailors are still looking for accommodation.

“The CO [commanding officer] confirmed its commitment not to displace any sailor from the UH concerned [unaccompanied housing] until they have suitable accommodation,” FitzGerald told Task & Purpose.

Naval Air Station Key West is making two-bedroom rental trailers available to junior enlisted sailors whose barracks have closed. Monthly rent is currently $3,937 and will increase to $4,402 in October. (Photo courtesy of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.)

One option for sailors is to live in two-bedroom rental trailers, which currently cost up to $3,937 per month. Rent will increase to $4,402 starting in October. Single E-3 sailors receive a housing allowance of $2,364 per month.

FitzGerald explained that the monthly rent would be split between the two sailors living in the trailers. This means that each would pay up to $2,200 per month, slightly less than their basic shelter allowance.

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The 36 trailers were originally offered through the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation program as vacation rentals now available to sailors while their barracks are being renovated, FitzGerald told Task & Purpose on Monday. The trailers are brand new and have many amenities that the barracks did not have, including a full kitchen and living area; and sailors would not have to pay for utilities.

However, the trailers are located about 8 miles from where the sailors work, which can cause transportation problems, said a sailor assigned to Naval Air Station Key West, who asked not to be identified to avoid d possible reprisals.

Another issue with the use of trailers is that the Navy expects its more junior sailors who haven’t spent much time at Naval Air Station Key West to go out and find roommates, the Navy said. marine.

“In a barracks, the Navy assigns you a roommate,” the sailor told Task & Purpose. “In this tow situation, the Navy expects most inexperienced sailors to ‘know it.’ There are just a myriad of problems here and band-aid solutions like vacation rentals are too much to short-sighted.

FitzGerald said unaccompanied sailors also have the option of renting homes on base or finding apartments off base.

Sailors stuck with expensive housing options after their barracks were closed by the Navy
Junior sailors enlisted at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., can rent these two-chamber trailers for around $4,000 a month. The rent would be shared between two sailors. (Photo courtesy of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.)

Naval Air Station Key West has privatized housing, but sailors who want to rent homes have to wait up to four months right now because it’s the time of year when troops and their families are ordered to move out. in new bases, she said. For unaccompanied sailors, the base offers unfurnished three-bedroom homes that cost between $2,950 and $3,750 per month, depending on location.

“You don’t have to live in Key West proper,” FitzGerald said. “There are many islands which, if you go north, offer less [rents] if you want to have an apartment all to yourself. But if you want to live in Key West, most people have a roommate. It’s just the cost of living skyrocketing all over America now. It gets expensive.

But finding an island in the Florida Keys with cheaper rents could mean living an hour’s drive from Naval Air Station Key West, said the sailor, who spoke to Task & Purpose.

The housing situation is particularly difficult for sailors assigned to the base who live far from their families – who are already waiting to rent accommodation on the base, the sailor said.

“I have a sailor on my sofa who has been here for two weeks without a home, [he] has until June 17 to move into base accommodation,” the sailor said. “Then he will bring his wife and one-year-old child here. He thinks about getting an Airbnb because he misses his family and it’s his only option.

Sailors stuck with expensive housing options after their barracks were closed by the Navy
Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., is making 36 vacation rental trailers available for junior enlisted sailors, whose barracks have been closed. (Photo courtesy of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida.)

Rep. Carlos Antonio Gimenez, a Republican congressman whose district includes Key West, said his office is talking to grassroots officials about the housing issue. “We all share a commitment to ensuring our service members have access to quality, affordable housing,” Gimenez said in a statement to Task & Purpose.

Some commenters on social media have pointed out that Naval Air Station Key West has long lacked affordable housing for enlisted sailors. A Navy veteran told Task & Purpose that he lived in a tent at the base campground for about a week in January 2019 because he couldn’t find an apartment within his budget.

“The only E-4 BAH [Basic Allowance for Housing] the rates are barely enough to get livable housing in town there if you’re lucky and the waiting list for housing was at least two months long,” said the veteran, who asked not to be identified to avoid recrimination from the Navy.

The housing situation at Naval Air Station Key West is just the latest example of sailors facing untenable living conditions. In February, the Navy Times reported that sailors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland had gone without hot water in their barracks for years, forcing the Navy to finally fix the problems.

More recently, the navy began moving sailors from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, where several crew members committed suicide as the ship underwent a lengthy renovation. But the Navy only acted after its most enlisted sailor told the crew of the George Washington that nothing could be done to make the ship more livable.

“What you’re not doing is sleeping in a foxhole like a Marine might,” Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Russell Smith told sailors aboard the George Washington on April 22. “What you do is go home at night, most nights, unlike the [deployed aircraft carrier] Harry S Truman. So when you’re here, it’s partly because you have more stability in the sense that you’re here. The downside is that some of the crap you have to go through logistically will drive you crazy.

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