Home sweet home – Potomac News Online

A second lieutenant and his wife were sitting in their house on Quantico Marine Corps Base on Thursday night when the roof caved in. The collapse didn’t come as much of a surprise, given much of the military housing on the base is about 60 years old and on its last legs.

Some strides have been taken to improve housing at the base — two new barracks are scheduled to open next month and crews began razing derelict duplexes this week, clearing ground for what will eventually be new family housing.

“It’s a quality of life issue, it’s taking care of your Marines,” said Col. Mark Swanstrom, facilities director at Quantico. “I can’t say we have the worst [housing] in the Marine Corps but we’re in pretty bad shape.”

Quantico officials are hopeful that more help is on the way, in the form of anticipated funding that will provide seed money for a “public privatization” of base housing. If the funding comes through, developers could lease land from the military and build and manage new housing on the base.

“It’s kind of like taking a mortgage out on your base,” Swanstrom said.

The housing would be comparable to any new development in the civilian community, with playgrounds, outdoor pools and other amenities. The designs would mostly be town houses, geared toward Marines with families.

For single Marines who live in barracks, Quantico is working to bring housing up to par with 2.0 standards, meaning two Marines share a bedroom with a private bath.

Construction crews are putting the final touches on two new mainside barracks scheduled to open in February. Each building is designed in Georgian brick architecture and houses 300 people.

More barracks and a new fitness center are expected to open in summer 2003.

The barracks will help alleviate housing shortages and provide better accommodations for the Marines.

There are more than 1,200 bachelors and “geographical bachelors” who live in barracks.

New family housing won’t be possible for a least a few years, at the earliest, but Swanstrom said he is very hopeful the funding will be granted.

Nearly 6,800 Marines are stationed at Quantico, and 4,239 live on the base with their families, according to 2001 statistics.

There are about 1,420 housing units and 60 mobile home sites, but 160 of the houses are boarded up. Problems like asbestos, lead paint and floors and ceilings that cave in are among the reasons they can’t be inhabited.

Congressional delegations have been shocked to see some of the housing officers live in, including all-metal houses constructed in the 1950s.

At first “they laugh, then they grow somber” when they realize Marines who have served for 15 years or longer are living in the tiny homes with their children, Swanstrom said.

He said moving Marines from old housing into the new could be a complicated process but he hopes it can be accomplished with as few moves as possible.

The old barracks might be used for storage or office space.

Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.

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