Leave It To The Federal Government To Spend 20 Years Building/Renovating 1,300 Homes

The Minot Daily News reports that a housing project at the Minot Air Force base has, after 20 years and almost $400 million in expenditures, completed the building or renovation of 1,302 homes.

After nearly 20 years of work to replace or renovate Minot Air Force Base’s family housing, the project is finished, says the commander of the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron at Minot AFB.

“This is a huge milestone for the base,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Jefson, noting the end of renovations and new construction that’s gone on in the military family housing area.

Jefson told members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee Thursday at Minot AFB that the final phase of the family housing project was completed this past calendar year 2011.

Since fiscal year 1992, Minot AFB has renovated 302 units, built 1,414 and left 30 units untouched, according to Civil Engineer Squadron information.

According to the article, the total cost of the project was $397.3 million paid out in contracts over 20 years. If we divide that figure by the 1,716 homes renovated/built over that time and the average expenditure per home is a whopping $231,526.

Now, that figure isn’t adjusted for inflation, but if I did go back and calculate the value of each contract in 2011 dollars that per-home figure would only be larger. For a frame of reference, keep in mind that $1 in 1992 is worth about $1.61 in 2011 dollars according to this calculator from the BLS.

Is anyone else left wondering how it is that it took 20 years to build/renovate 1,714 homes? And why in the world it cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars each, and probably more if we adjusted for inflation?

As a frame of reference, the Stonebridge Farms development in Minot (building in the same labor/materials/weather climate as the Minot Air Force Base) built, per their website, some 218 units in 2011 alone with another 100 lots expected to be developed in 2012. And I’m quite certain those folks are not spending a quarter of a million dollars per unit.

Yet, according to some, there’s no fat in the federal budget. We must raise taxes!

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • badlands4

    As someone who lived in both the old housing and the brand new housing..blech.

    The old housing was horrible. Not appearance, because I didn’t think the inside was bad but the houses were old and they had alot of plumbing/sewage problems, mold, etc. Our entire 4 plex had to move out for a week because of a sewage back-up that went from unit to unit and then there was mold. That wasn’t uncommon. I knew alot of people, both friends and acquaintances from wives support group, etc, who had big problems with water(leaks, sewage, etc) and mold.

    I also lived in a brand new house at both Grand Forks and Minot. Neither of them seemed finished. Cheap materials and in the Minot house the tub was all chipped up when we moved in and the sink in the downstairs bathroom wasn’t connected properly so the entire sink/top moved all over the place.

    Just alot of really cheap materials that were not finished properly. Floors where the flooring wasn’t put down correctly so there were gaps between the floor and the wall, etc.

    I told my husband that I couldn’t imagine those houses standing up to a new family every 3 years. Based on my experience from new houses in Grand Forks and Minot, I would say in 10 years they will be falling apart.

    There is carpet upstairs in the Minot House and it is, if I recall, a kind of cream color. ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? The downstairs was linoleum and then tile, so you bought carpet remnants to fit the rooms, which is the experience of every family when you move into base housing because it makes NO sense to have carpet, particularly light carpet in a house that will have so much turnover.

    Just seemed really cheap, like they got to the delivery date and then threw things together to be finished on time.

    Frankly, it would have much cheaper and quicker had they just updated the old housing. It had really sturdy “bones” and the cost to update the plumbing, the water issues, etc vs the cost of a brand new house would have been much smaller…

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I was only in one of the homes when I was back in high school (picking up a prom date), so I don’t have a lot of first-hand knowledge, but from what people like you tell me the quality isn’t great.

  • Jimmypop

    “And I’m quite certain those folks are spending a quarter of a million dollars per unit” are NOT, right?
    you could look at building permits and see how per unit it really is. I bet its over $100,000 but nowhere NEAR $200,000.

    • Jimmypop

      edit…and i get stone includes road and EVERYTHING under ground as well.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Yeah, thanks, I wrote it wrong.  Fixed it in the post.

      There’s a mix of units they’re building, and I’m now knowledgeable enough about the building industry to know what the cost of the units is, but I’d guess that $100,000 is a good guess.

  • C. Y.

    Central government works so well, we should fashion the entire state of ND just like that and vote for measure Two!

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Measure 2 isn’t a vote for centralized government.  It is a vote for property rights.

      • Jimmypop

        yes and no…. what the good intentions result in is a centralized government.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Measure 2 doesn’t grant the state government any additional power.  The state government would have the same amount of power over the political subdivisions as it does now.

          You’re presuming a level of local control that doesn’t actually exist right now.

          • Jimmypop

            um….quick question; who in dickinson voted to approve the new high school in fargo. or was is a lady in Washburn that voted for our new high school? i need a name please. there is NO WAY i am voting for that guy again. no way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RVIS42ZJEXB6TWZQHYCZF247II Willis Forster

    Most federal contracting officers are corrupt, especially as they near retirement. They retire before the work is completed, take all the under the table money, refuse to testify in the subsequent investigation, the case is closed and every body moves on

  • JustRuss

    I’ve lived in military housing in 3 different places and have watched them doing updates/makeovers of the units in my neighborhood.  It is entirely possible that part of the money claimed in the $250k is moving expenses to pick an entire family up and put them in another unit for the duration of of the fix.  That could significantly increase costs and add another layer of labor contracts that could be abused.

    I’m not saying I agree with the expense.  But the timeline makes sense when they either pay to move someone out or they wait 4 years or longer to get into an empty unit to begin renovation. 

  • opinionated

    As someone who lived on the Minot Air Force Base I can tell you that the construction has been going on since 1975 when my dad became stationed here…….they would remodel then remodel again, then remodel again… then move perfectly good houses out and sell them for almost nothing (some are now at the old south base, and some are on the road heading to Surrey, some are now on the reservations) …. this is what people do when they are not spending from their own checkbook but from people the never have to answer too…… DISGUSTING….

  • borborygmi

    20 years …Just in time to start renovating……

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