ARTICLE AND PHOTO BY PAMELA SLEEZER
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – In answer to the ongoing housing needs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, garrison leaders recently announced new homes will be built in the Meriwether Landing community, on Lewis North, in 2027.The project will add 212 new homes to the existing community at the cost of approximately $130 million, though Liberty Military Housing officials have said that number – and timeline – could be altered by the time ground is broken.“We are continuing to work with the local leadership to clarify the housing needs at JBLM and may add additional homes and adjust project timing as determined by Installation Management Command,” said Kevin Clarke, senior vice president of Construction and Environmental Services at LMH.At this time, the date of groundbreaking is yet to be determined.The housing to be built represents the completion of a master plan for Meriwether Landing that was approved several years ago, according to Elizabeth Wilson, who heads the Army Housing Office.The original phase of Meriwether Landing was completed in 2013, with the second phase originally expected to begin in 2021. That plan was delayed, Wilson said, when another housing project was prioritized ahead of the new construction.“Two projects were pulled forward instead that detailed renovating 952 units across two housing communities at the combined cost of $107.7 million,” Wilson said. “Those projects are expected to be completed in 2026.”The two projects include renovating homes in the Davis Hill and New Hillside neighborhoods. As of now, New Hillside has had 225 out of 523 homes renovated, and 133 out of 429 homes have been renovated in Davis Hill.The plans to expand Meriwether had initially been delayed even further, to 2031, but Col. Phil Lamb, JBLM commander, said he was pleased to see that timeline decreased to assist with the urgent need for safe and affordable housing for servicemembers.“This is a top quality of life issue for Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the service members and families that live and reside here,” Lamb said. “Because of the lack of safe and affordable housing off the installation, we really see that transcending to concerns with the inventory on the installation.” A lack of inventory of available homes on the installation can quickly cause further stress for families, Lamb said, manifesting into extended wait lists for families moving to JBLM and financial insecurities for families forced to seek housing off the installation.According to a study by the Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington ranks last among all 50 states in the ratio of housing units to existing households. The department is also currently projecting nearly 6 million people will be added to the South Sound area by 2050, according to Lamb.“So, when the Department of Defense instructs us to rely on the off-installation housing market to take care of the vast majority of service members and their families, we unfortunately can’t rely on it as heavily as we would like to because of the lack of safe and affordable housing,” said Lamb.For those reasons, Lamb said he has pushed for a reevaluation of the installation’s long-term housing plans. While housing plans are typically reviewed every five years, a new housing market analysis is now slated to be conducted this spring; two years early.Lamb said he hopes this analysis will shed transparency on the future housing needs for JBLM, and hopefully will get new housing communities on the horizon.
“It’s a phased approach,” Lamb said. “The homes expected to be built in the 2026-2027 timeframe are just phase one. Then we will reassess the housing market using the housing market analysis and the wait list that we currently have on the installation to determine if there are additional follow-on phases for more builds.”
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