By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 18, 2009) -- Soldiers looking for an easy way to find safe, reputable housing at their new duty station -- before they arrive -- can visit their local housing office and ask for information about the Automated Housing Referral Network.
The AHRN is a Department of Defense-sponsored Web site that directs servicemembers preparing for a permanent change of station to housing vacancies in the vicinity of their new duty stations.
"It's convenient, and for the most part, Soldiers like that they can look at this at their own leisure and see addresses and go out there and look ahead of time," said Estrella Martinez, the Housing Services chief at Fort Bliss, Texas. Martinez said as many as 300 Soldiers at the Texas installation have found housing through AHRN.
For Soldiers looking for housing, they can log into the site from anywhere in the world and search for apartments or homes for rent in the local area around their new duty station. Prices, locations and photos are available on the site, as is contact information.
"You can search all types of ways: by bedroom size, zip code, square footage, rental amount, etc.," Martinez said. "And it's easy to use. When they do get to the Web site and are new to using it, they get to looking at housing in about five minutes."
Properties on the site undergo the same kind of scrutiny they would undergo if they were to be referred to Soldiers by housing office personnel during an office visit.
"We actually do monitoring of the properties on there -- all the properties that are listed," Martinez said. "If we find something suspicious, like rent is too low, we go look to see if it is an okay property to make sure a Soldier in Germany is not going to get tricked by fake pictures."
Martinez said that most landlords who use the site are honest, and are glad to be able to advertise for free to the military audience.
"There's a good response from property managers -- they know this is a Department of Defense Web site for Soldiers to go on and look for rentals," Martinez said. "Everybody likes having military rent from Soldiers. And it looks good in the community. Some landlords say that within days they had calls."
The AHRN Web site is free for both Soldiers looking for a good place to live, and for landlords who want to rent their properties to members of the military.