Military Families Are Enduring Moldy, Rat-Infested Housing

Members of the military are guaranteed a few key benefits in exchange for serving their country. One of the most fundamental is housing, which is supposed to be clean, safe and generally pleasant. But in privatized military housing, which makes up almost all base housing, it turns out that promise is not being kept.

Military families are living in moldy, rat-infested homes with peeling paint, electrical problems and other horrors, according to a report from the Military Family Advisory Network. The organization is calling on the Department of Defense to investigate and remedy this situation.

Take action: Join Care2 activists telling the Pentagon to address substandard military housing conditions! 

The organization conducted a survey of almost 17,000 people, over half of whom reported dissatisfaction with housing run by private companies. They reported black mold, lead paint, hazardous wiring, pests, unsafe water, raw sewage bubbling up in bathrooms, asbestos and other issues, with some saying that their living conditions had caused illness.

Environmental illnesses can sometimes have life-long impacts, as in the case of children with lead poisoning who experience permanent cognitive and developmental delays.

“I have lupus, and already suffered a miscarriage, fungal sinus infection, and now nerve pain due to inflammation that is being investigated as a reaction to mold since living in this 1980s-era home,” one respondent said. “I hate myself for drinking the water. I constantly blame myself,” said another, speaking of her son’s failure to thrive. Another service member’s career was derailed by environmental illness.

Long after these families leave the service, or are forced out because of disabilities acquired from unsanitary housing, the effects of this exposure will linger — especially for children born to people who lived in such housing during pregnancy. This is terrible for military families and some argue it’s also bad for force readiness, as the military is losing valuable personnel to illness and injury.

The obvious solution to this problem seems like aggressively reporting poor living conditions to military officials and landlords, but that’s not how it’s worked out on the ground. Survey respondents said that when they reported, they faced indifference or retaliation — with some indicating that they were afraid to report. Most were enlisted service members, not officers. The high price of off-base housing paired with limited housing allowances can make it difficult for enlisted people to rent civilian homes.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to learn more about the findings and talk directly with military families; many were shocked and appalled by the stories they heard from some of the 700,000 people dwelling in privatized military housing. Meanwhile, developers apologized, but it’s clear that this issue has been documented for a long time and they’ve failed to act — even claiming that the conditions of their homes are fine and that residents are happy and healthy.

Entities like the Safe Military Housing Initiative are gathering resources to promote a fix to this unsettling situation. Advocates say the Department of Defense needs to partner with them on further work to determine the extent of the problem so they can develop tools like clearly codified tenant rights for military families, changes to incentives for developers to promote safety and renegotiated contracts with companies that cannot maintain housing fit for human habitation.

Take Action!

If you think it’s unjust to force members of the military and their families to live in dangerous, “disgusting” housing, sign this Care2 petition telling the Department of Defense to better advocate for our troops!

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo Credit: Getty Images


Tabot T
Tabot T28 days ago


Lorraine A
Lorraine Andersenabout a month ago

so very sad to take advantage of our military.

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hillabout a month ago

not surprising

Hannah A
Hannah Aabout a month ago


Sophie A
Sophie Aabout a month ago

Signed. Thanks.

Barbara S
Barbara Sabout a month ago


Vincent T
Vincent Tabout a month ago

thank you for posting

Susanne R
Susanne Rabout a month ago

Rhoberta E. - Thank you for your kind words, but something strange is going on. I received an email from Lorrie O. a few days ago indicating that she added a comment to a thread (which was 8 years old) and inviting me to comment. When I accessed the thread, her exact comment appeared again --but under my name. I typed an explanation and flagged it with a request for Care2 to look into it. Perhaps that's why my comments are disappearing. I don't know what's happening, but with my own comments disappearing and someone else's comments appearing under my name, I'm feeling quite uncomfortable. I guess I'll wait and see what happens. Please feel free to email me, if you're able to. I hope I'll be able to read your comments and the comments of all the members I've enjoyed so much.

Elaine W
Elaine Wabout a month ago

This is shameful.

Susanne R
Susanne Rabout a month ago

To all my Care2 friends:

All of my comments have been removed. I don't know how or why this is happening but I guess it's time to say goodbye.

Thank you for 8-1/2 years of agreement, disagreement, happiness, sadness, mutual support and the difference we made together by signing petitions and providing one another with information. Thank you for the many friendships I've enjoyed so much.

God bless all! And keep up the good work!