Tanana Trails Housing on Fort Wainwright

Christina Eller, left, and Ashley Stineman walk around the new Tanana Trails housing community on Fort Wainwright during the open house on Saturday, June 6, 2015.

Fort Wainwright has received praise from its residents in the recently released results of a nationwide assessment of on-post Army housing.

Fort Wainwright received an 83.2% satisfaction rating with on-post housing in an Army-directed assessment of the Residential Communities Initiative in February 2019. The assessment was launched to “determine the effectiveness, responsiveness, and value of (Residential Communities Initiatives) companies,” according to the Army’s official report.

The assessment,  “Department of the Army Inspector General Special Interest Item Assessment of the Residential Communities Initiatives,” included 1,180 resident surveys, 1,023 document reviews, 227 interviews with garrison commanders and housing personnel, and 116 sessions with housing residents.

John Herring, property manager at Fort Wainwright, described the Residential Communities Initiative, or RCI, as a partnership between the Army and a privatized organization to run housing on military installations.

People living in RCI housing include contractors and some civilian employees, because these groups are authorized to live in the housing when occupancy rates fall. The practice is referred to as “waterfall.”

As service members are being deployed, Fort Wainwright is opening up more of this housing.

“We had a limited waterfall before this, but now we’re opening it up wider due to trying to increase our occupancy percent back to 95%,” Herring said.

The Army’s report detailed some issues in such communities, but Fort Wainwright ranked fifth out of 49 installations examined in terms of housing satisfaction.

“It means that we did a very good, an outstanding, job with our tenants that live in housing; because they’re the ones that rate us during the survey and that’s how they perceive their living conditions,” Herring said.

The deficiencies reported in the assessment cited “general confusion and frustration” regarding program management and responsibilities and “ineffective oversight” of the program as the result of budget reductions.

In contrast to some of these results, Fort Wainwright has received generally positive feedback for North Haven Communities, the company the installation partners with for housing. People who live in this housing can leave either positive or negative comments regarding their experiences through the garrison’s Interactive Customer Evaluation.

North Haven Communities has high positive comment feedback, according to Herring, at 93%.

The company also hosts monthly events for residents, including winterization events for newcomers.

“They’re an outstanding partner, so they’re really into customer service, satisfaction, making sure that our residents have a good quality of life, want to live on Fort Wainwright,” Herring said.

Fort Wainwright community relations specialist Eve Baker said post officials are aware that Alaska is a more remote location than some families are accustomed to.

“We are trying really hard to ensure that people are happy living up here,” she said.

Baker said the post hosts quarterly town halls to hear from residents. The most recent was held Wednesday.

There is not a firm date set for the next town hall, but Herring says it should be sometime in mid-December.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510.  Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.