LBM Dealer's Pandemic-Related Stimulus Idea: Put Contractors to Work Improving Military Homes
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
One of LBM's most forward-thinking figures proposes taking construction crews and suppliers likely to be hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and put them to work on a new federal stimulus program to improve the nation's military housing.
Bill Hayward already has laid much of the groundwork with the Pentagon, Congress, and housing experts to launch a program that would spend $5 billion to create more than 17,000 jobs retrofitting 200,000 military homes. By the fifth year, the improvements are touted as saving the military nearly $3.2 billion in health costs, improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, quicker training, and lower energy bills.
"This plan recognizes that the home is becoming the first line of defense for military family wellness in the 21st century," Hayward writes. "... Housing will become a strategic advantage for the new cognitive age of military operations." He goes so far as to suggest that, for a solider, a military home should be regarded as another form of personal protective equipment.
Hayward's REHOME project can begin almost immediately, he says, as training resources exist already and the work largely involves retrofitting and remodeling existing homes on military bases. The project is envisioned to take five years, but if the economy needs a coronavirus-related boost it can be done in two.
Thinking big is nothing new to Hayward, the CEO of Hayward Lumber
in Monterey, CA. Seventeen years ago, Hayward's company won ProSales magazine's Dealer of the Year award in part for his solar-powered truss plant. Seven years ago, prompted by how severely Sick Building Syndrome had hurt his family, he launched HaywardScore.com. This online tool helps people uncover health hazards in their homes and suggests ways to fix it; so far, more than 70,000 people have used the tool, producing what Hayward says is the largest data set on health and homes ever created. Roughly 1,800 of those scores are from residents of military housing--one reason why he launched this project.
The REHOME report cites estimates that 5% to 7% of the families living in military housing of all types have severe health problems because of their homes, and another 12% to 20% have moderate impacts. Roughly 20% of the 200,000 military-owned homes are in such bad shape they are slated to be torn down. In 2018, Reuters did a major investigation into the problems at both military-owned housing as well as the 600,000 homes rented to the military by private contractors. A year later, Congress held hearings on the issue.
Researchers at Harvard University have found a person's ability to think, when compared with the average air quality American's experience, improves by 60% to 100% after indoor air quality is optimized. Thus, "optimized indoor environments will have a significant benefit to the training, deployment, and recovery cycle," he says, as well as the peace of mind a service member gets knowing their kids aren't being hurt by where they live.
And that's on top of a potential $100 million per year in energy savings. All in all, poor housing "is costing us in terms of mission readiness and retention," Hayward says.
Most of the work in the homes involves improving ventilation systems, sealing leaks, insulating better, reducing the presence of toxic materials, and making surfaces more cleanable.
Hayward says officials at the Army, Navy, and Air Force requested in December that he write a plan that could incorporate REHOME. Hayward did that, and since then has presented his REHOME plan to members and staff in the House and Senate Armed Services Committee.
The original idea was to include REHOME in future Defense Department budgets. Now, given the pandemic's economic impact, Hayward sees his idea as something that easily could be incorporated into a future stimulus package. Even if REHOME were expanded to include another $15 billion to cover 600,000 homes rented by the military, the $20 billion total would be a rounding error in the latest $2.2 trillion package.
"Construction must remain vibrant in the next year if there is any hope of keeping the American economy alive," Hayward says. He hopes to organize a coalition to embrace the REHOME idea and get Congress to move on it.