- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - The military is having a tough time retaining civilian employees at Naval Air Station Key West because of a lack of affordable housing.

Leaders at the Navy base say they lose well-qualified employees who simply cannot afford to live in the area known for high-end resorts and vacation homes, The Key West Citizen (https://bit.ly/1O1aHMD ) reported on Sunday.

C.J. Krieger, fire chief for the base, said he loses about 50 percent of his crew each year because of housing costs.

“They have to learn our base operations, our equipment and all that money gets wasted on the front end when they leave,” Krieger said. “And they don’t leave because they don’t like it here. They just can’t afford it.”

Base leaders say the housing shortage for civilian employees is a critical issue because the base cannot operate without civilians who work as air traffic controllers, security operators, public works operators and do many other jobs important to daily base operations.

The Navy base also has waiting list for sailors and Marines wanting to live in base housing. Although the military provides active duty members with a housing allowance based on the cost of living in the region, it is still difficult for many to find affordable housing in the vacation paradise and cover other basic living necessities, base officials say.

There is a six-month waiting list for officers and a two-month waiting list for enlisted personnel who want housing on base, Base Spokeswoman Trice Denny told the newspaper.

Charity Sandstrom, housing director for the base, said civilian employees have accepted jobs at the base and then quit before starting the job after trying to find a place to live in the area.

“I’ve fielded several phone calls recently from new employees asking me to take their name off the on-base housing wait list, because after taking the job, they looked into living in town and found that it’s just not affordable,” she said.

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Information from: The Key West (Fla.) Citizen, https://www.keysnews.com

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