WASHINGTON — The executives who run military housing that's plagued with mold, rodents and lead paint were in the hot seat Thursday. The dangerous conditions service members are forced to live in was the subject of another hearing on Capitol Hill, this time on the House side.
"My question to you, is even if times have improved, is this some place that you would want to live or allow your family to live?" Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn asked.
As lawmakers grilled the executives from the private companies that own and run military housing, the families who do live with those dangerous conditions spoke out on social media. WUSA9 wanted to know what they would want to ask. With the comments from exasperated residents came new photos of the conditions they are still living in.
"I wish that I could say that things were all better, but they're not," Horn said. "While there has been some progress, it seems like every other week there's something else that's coming out."
In the photos, mold overruns kitchen cabinets, it grows inside HVACs and spreads out of vents and water damage invades living spaces. All of this happened while most of the private companies in charge of the communities enjoy 50-year contracts -- that's 50 years of getting taxpayer dollars for giving the men and women who serve our country homes with these conditions.
Mold and water damage from inside military housing
"I am incredibly disappointed that you have failed to live up to your responsibility for taking care of the people that are living in these houses," Horn said. "It is cheating our military families and our taxpayers."
The company leaders apologized and countered that they've been making changes, which include starting resident advisory councils, using maintenance tracking tools, creating new training and even firing staffers at the community level.
Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown doesn't sit on this particular subcommittee, but he wanted to participate in the hearing.
"The Pentagon didn't come to Congress and say 'we have a problem,'" Brown argued. "You didn't come to Congress and say 'we have a problem.' Instead, military families got squeezed, and it was military spouses who stepped up, and that's a shame on you."
He asked about a concern WUSA9 has heard from military families for months.
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"Several of the service members that are stationed at Fort Meade have conveyed to me that they experienced direct retaliation from your company in response to their attempts to resolve maintenance issues with their homes," Brown said. "These behaviors include obscene gestures and drive-by harassment."
"We absolutely take any form of retaliation, retribution or harassment seriously, and we do not condone that behavior," Corvias Group, LLC Founder and CEO John Picerne responded.
WUSA9 has reported family members with health issues fear they'll be abandoned once the homes are fixed.
"In the case where there is a child who has been affected by this, who will permanently be disabled because of this, what responsibility do you all have and do you all plan for with your for-profit businesses?" Pennsylvania Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan asked.
"If in the instance of yes, we are the cause of any medical condition, we'd absolutely look to financially compensate," Denis Hickey, CEO of Lendlease Americas, answered.
Comments from military families continued to pop up into the evening. One question that stood out was when a military spouse asked simply "When will this stop?"
If Thursday’s hearing is any indication, it's a question no one seems to be able to answer at this point.
"This hearing is one of a series," Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John Garamendi said. "We will not let this issue go."
Garamendi said he plans to hold hearings like this every four months or so, which could bring the executives back to Washington in the Spring.