This story updated Nov. 4 to correct information in the photo caption.
FORT IRWIN • Fort Irwin leaders are currently re-examining plans to build $31 million in more housing as the post's housing department sees more vacant homes.
The plan is to build 84 more homes and is the second phase of a 9-year effort to provide housing for all stationed at the post, an endeavor unique to Fort Irwin. According to Ladye Blair, program director of the residential community initiative on post, there are more than 100 homes that are not filled.
Since 2006, more than 700 homes have been built or rebuilt to accommodate what was then a swelling population at Fort Irwin. Because Fort Irwin is so far from its nearest community, the post received approval to build enough housing for all stationed there, including their families.
The first phase, which is nearing completion, entailed building enough housing to hold 85 percent of the fort's capacity. The second phase is to build 86 additional houses providing housing for 95 percent of the fort's capacity.
Col. Kurt Pinkerton, garrison commander of the post, said the leadership is currently reviewing whether or not it's necessary to continue to build. He said that while they have reached their goal of building for 85 percent of the fort's capacity, because the fort has less soldiers stationed than they can support, they may already have enough homes.
"Even now at 85 percent capacity we don't have all our houses filled on post," Pinkerton said.
Pinkerton explained that Fort Irwin can have a maximum of 6,500 soldiers stationed there, but they currently have only about 5,500 stationed on post.
The post has been downsizing, mirroring downsizing Army-wide. On Sept. 19 the fort inactivated the 557 Maintenance Company. While a majority of those soldiers moved to other units on post, many were stationed elsewhere.
"With the transitioning of our country, transitioning here, and the downsizing, nobody knows," Blair said. "Now that the Army's downsizing we're all kind of at a limbo."
This coupled with the fact that some just prefer to live off post for various reasons explains why the post may not need more homes.
"A certain percent of people are always going to opt to live off post," Pinkerton said, adding that some choose to live in town due to medical reasons or for their spouse's career.
While Pinkerton said there's no benefit to the post to have soldiers reside in the fort's housing, there is a real benefit to the families. Blair said though her staff does help soldiers move into referred housing in other towns, they usually encourage them to live on post. For her, the primary reason is because commuting to and from town can be especially dangerous for the soldiers who work exhausting hours, many overnight.
"The Army's done as much as possible to make Fort Irwin a community of excellence and a community of choice, because of the distance and safety involved," Blair said.