NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
The world was a much different place when military housing was constructed at the New Cumberland Army Depot in the 1950s. Conserving material goods throughout World War II, most Americans (and military families in particular) were accustomed to smaller houses built with materials much less efficient than those used in modern construction. By the end of the 20th century the rising costs of maintaining the 140 housing units – coupled with the declining occupancy rate of military families – drove the government’s decision to close down base housing and demolish most of the structures.
“Although the homes were newly renovated on the inside,” said Robert Montefour, site director for DLA Installation Management – Susquehanna, “not much was done on the outside for aesthetics. New families coming in would pause when looking at the outside 1950s-era looks.”
By 2017, the occupancy rate of the homes had dropped to less than 33 percent with military families choosing to use their Base Allowance for Housing (or BAH, amounting to $1,440 to $2,600 per month based on rank) to buy or rent homes in the local area.
“One of the most commonly noted benefits from families was the flexibility of selecting the schools their children would attend,” said Montefour. “There are endless home styles, neighborhoods and numerous other amenities available around the Pennsylvania state capitol area of Harrisburg.”
After lengthy discussions with U.S. Army and Department of Defense personnel, in 2016 the decision was made to permanently close base housing at New Cumberland by Oct. 31, 2018. Families that occupied the units were either moved at the government’s expense or finished their tour and sent to another base within that timeframe.
“We were faced with the choice of either putting substantial funds into the facility to modernize (along with a VERY strong family recruitment effort) or to divest of the mission,” said Montefour. “In the interest of being good stewards of both tax dollars and our military families, DoD chose to close the housing.”
Once houses were no longer occupied, demolition of the structures began shortly thereafter. By early 2020, 120 of the original 140 units are expected to be leveled, eliminating the government’s $1 million yearly expense.
According to Montefour, the remaining structures are planned to be repurposed as office space to support various military missions including the Family Advocacy Program, military recruitment, conference rooms and modern telework spaces.