Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith visited Lincoln Military Housing’s (LMH) Wadsworth Shores community Dec. 3 for a meeting with LMH and Naval Air Station Oceana Navy Housing staff.
Earlier this year, issues with Navy public private venture (PPV) housing made national news when families living in poor conditions were not receiving the necessary maintenance and assistance they required.
Smith held the meeting with LMH to discuss the improving conditions of LMH PPV housing and what actions are being taken to help Sailors receive the assistance they need.
“I wanted to see how Lincoln Military Housing sees the situation as it’s evolved over the last year, and how they’re serving Sailor needs,” said Smith. “I also wanted to hear from a couple of Sailors about how they feel the situation is evolving and to get a snapshot from both sides on where things stand.”
Smith said he feels the Secretary of the Navy has done a very good job of addressing the business practices of PPV partners and the industry side of Navy Housing, but command leadership needs to continue spearheading the issue at the individual level with Sailors who are having problems with housing conditions.
“Talk to us, communicate with us and help us help you,” said Smith, discussing what Sailors need to do when they experience problems with PPV housing. “From a leadership perspective, we need to make sure we’re leaning in to our junior Sailors and hearing their concerns. It’s not okay for us to sit back and watch Sailors spend time on the phone with housing every day because they’re not getting results.”
Smith said Sailors’ leadership is responsible for the growth and development of their Sailors and helping them get ready to fight, but that equates to more than their jobs, qualifications and training.
“That includes helping them solve the housing problems they have,” said Smith. “Housing problems bring an extra dimension to the issue, especially when they have families they’ll be concerned about when they’re out to sea.”
Smith said concerns for a Sailor’s family and dependents are part of the extra dimension that makes it imperative for the Navy to communicate effectively on both sides to fix any housing issues.
Effective communication is not only important within commands helping Sailors with housing issues; it is also important between Sailors and LMH, when it comes to addressing maintenance issues and outstanding work orders.
LMH made an effort to tackle the communication issues May 2019 when they released a mobile application that allows residents to track maintenance on their home. Dakysha Harris, LMH district manager, demonstrated this app to Smith during the meeting.
According to the LMH website, the Lincoln Military Resident App makes it easy for residents and their families to manage maintenance of their LMH home, even when on the go.
“The app makes it easy to request maintenance on your home and track the progress,” according to a public release from LMH. Residents also have the capability of uploading photos of housing conditions, making it easy for LMH to see the issue.
Smith said he is excited about the mobile application because of the ability for Sailors and LMH staff to have a receipt of maintenance requests submitted for their homes.
“The transparency that comes with receipting helps both sides,” said Smith. “It helps the Sailors prove they had their work requests submitted to the system, and it helps LMH in the event of Sailors not submitting work requests.”
Smith said the transparency will help build trust in the system, allow command leadership to help track Sailors' housing issues, and as a result, drive the efficacy of LMH’s initiatives to help Sailors meet their needs.
“Everyone’s doing their part to come together on this issue, and I think the app is only going to make it better,” said Smith. “Being able to see the history of every work order that’s been submitted for a home is going to be very helpful.”
Smith said LMH not following up with residents’ problems was one of the main causes for a build-up of housing issues that led to the boil-over earlier this year.
“When you have a system like this app that can say, ‘We’ve got your problem in the system and here are our means to follow up,’ it will aid in the transparency that helps Sailors get what they need from LMH.
Overall, Smith said he is happy to see LMH working to improve their communication and maintenance follow-up with Sailors residing in PPV housing.
“I’m more optimistic than I have been in quite a while after hearing about the use of technology to help Sailors with transparency,” said Smith. “It’s good news, as long as it comes to fruition. We have to keep an eye on it to see how it turns out.”
Sailors experiencing ongoing, unresolved issues with PPV housing should contact the Naval Air Station Oceana housing office at (757) 433-3068 or firstname.lastname@example.org and notify their chain of command if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner.