'We're Coming Your Way:' Lawmaker Puts Military Housing Company on Notice After Hearing No-Show

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., right, attends a meeting with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and other members of the House of Representatives in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A major private military housing company refused to show up at a congressional hearing Wednesday to testify before lawmakers on why the housing it provides to troops and their families is in such poor condition.

Clark Realty Capital, which operates thousands of military homes in at least 14 locations including Fort Belvoir and Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, was summoned to testify before the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on housing conditions after numerous lawsuits and reports of disgusting and unsafe conditions have surfaced.

"Clark declined our invitation. I am really upset about this, and it raises concerns about their ability to be transparent to Congress -- but more important to families in their homes," said John Garamendi, D-Calif., chair of the House Armed Services Committee subpanel on readiness.

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Clark Realty Capital did not respond to a request to comment when asked why its representatives didn't testify.

Balfour Beatty Communities, Lendlease Americas and Corvias Group LLC officials did show up to sit in the hot seat and face a grilling. But now lawmakers are warning that Clark Realty Capital is in their sights and threatened sudden inspections from Congress.

"As we conduct our oversight, Clark Realty, you are clearly in the sights of this committee, and we will be assessing which of our oversight tools will be brought to bear to get answers," Garamendi said. "Since, Clark, you won't come to us, we're gonna go to you on a little [trip] down the river to find out what's going on at Fort Belvoir and why Clark has such bad reviews. So heads up. We're coming your way, and we may not give you much time to know when we arrive."

Poor housing conditions on U.S. military bases have drawn Congress' scorn following a 2018 Reuters investigation that found systematic failures among private military housing companies across the country, including falsified maintenance reports, mold, pest infestation, poor infrastructure, and retaliation against military families who complained.

"I think you will all agree that our military families deserve the best housing experience we can provide them," said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., the top Republican on the readiness subpanel. "They should not have to worry about excessive mold, pest infestation, asbestos, open sewage, radon gas, and other environmental health conditions in some of the housing units.

"They also should not have to worry about cumbersome property management issues regarding lagging response times, withholding work and, in some instances, retribution for bringing housing problems forward. We must do better," he added.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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