Military reviewing its Gander properties

Andrew Robinson
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The Canadian Forces Housing Agency is reviewing its five-year housing plan, which could affect its properties in Gander.

There are 62 residential housing units spread throughout the town. According to CFHA figures, 85 per cent of those are used by Canadian Forces members, with the remainder used by other government employees. There is a two per cent vacancy rate.

Surplus housing owned by the Department of National Defence has proven beneficial to the community in the past. In May, it was announced that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. had acquired 13 surplus housing units and were converting them into affordable housing units.

The 62 houses are three or four bedroom homes generally made available for families. In a meeting with the town council’s economic and social development committee, CFHA urban planner Pierre Beauchamp said the demographics of their personnel is changing, with more single personnel expected. This may lead to a need to renovate properties.

Art Hinks, the manager for CFHA at 5 Wing Goose Bay and 9 Wing Gander, said an ongoing recruitment drive is likely to bring more young, single members into the Canadian Forces.

“They’re younger, and getting your first home is always hard to do, especially if you’re being posted across the country or from one province to another.”

It is still unclear how those trends might affect Gander and Goose Bay.

“That’s not a big issue in Gander or Goose Bay yet, but we have to be aware of it and we may have to be somewhat prepared for it to happen. That doesn’t mean we’re going to acquire more houses in Gander or build now, but within the five-year plan, that’s the type of scenarios they look at.”

Hinks said the number of units required for 9 Wing Gander will depend on the number of members needing space.

In Gander, a federal government commitment to invest $42.5 million to replace 12 buildings shows the local base will have a steady flow of personnel for years.

“It certainly indicates — if they follow through — there’s going to be a presence there for a long time to come,” Hinks said. “Hopefully, CFHA will be there with the units we have. When we get down to 62, we’ll get down to the process of rejuvenation.”

Hinks said the situation at 5 Wing Goose Bay, where he’s based, is less certain.

“Certainly here in Goose Bay with the wing here and the way we operate, it’s a year-to-year type of thing,” he said.

5 Wing Goose Bay has 67 members and 177 housing units.

According to CFHA, most residential housing units have received significant interior work in recent years, including new kitchens, bathrooms and interior doors and trim.

Hinks said if there are excess units in a portfolio with a finite amount of funding available for maintenance and repairs, then some units will be declared surplus.

Gander is also unique for having a strong housing market, with recording-setting development for residential properties in 2008 and 2009,  he said.

“There’s a fair number of members who come through, and they probably want a (permanent married quarters) to ensure they have housing, but they’re also looking at the market at the same time to see if there’s a house to buy.”

Work underway for the next five-year plan is part of an ongoing strategy that is reviewed and updated constantly, according to the CFHA.

“If there were any changes coming, say if the wing was going to staff up and there’d be more (space), then you’d have discussions within the five years on how we’re going to achieve that.”

Tying in with that planning is the Town of Gander’s own infrastructure plans. In July, representatives of the CFHA asked for details of the town’s infrastructure plan and zoning maps. Urban planners with CFHA will use the information to see how current Department of National Defence properties fit in with the town’s future.

“They look at the amenities — how close they are to shopping, churches, and schools — and they try and create an urban plan for Canadian Forces housing and the folks who live in the general area,” said Hinks.

The Beacon

Organizations: Canadian Forces Housing Agency, Canadian Forces, Department of National Defence Newfoundland and Labrador Housing

Geographic location: Gander, Goose Bay, Gander.There

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