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Fort Drum makes contingency plans after loss of popular housing website

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FORT DRUM — The post will maintain a list of housing it has inspected as a stop-gap measure as the military ends its contract with a popular housing website on Jan. 1.

The Automated Housing Referral Network, www.ahrn.com, has been in place since 2004, with the Navy administering the contract. It is operated by Runzheimer International, and is accessible only to users with a .mil or dodea.edu email address.

The site’s housing listings are checked locally by installation staff. At the end of the year, those local reviews will end. That extra layer of protection, along with easy searches by categories such as number of rooms and location, made it popular with soldiers.

“We tell soldiers when you use those other websites, you’ve got to understand the Army may not have looked at those properties, and you have to be wary of those,” said William L. Bamann, Fort Drum’s housing chief.

He said the site has also benefitted small property owners, by giving them a larger audience for their listings.

Without the site, Mr. Bamann said the post will maintain a list of residences it has inspected for safety and habitability at its office at Clarke Hall. By late January, it is expected that the listings will go on the post’s website, www.drum.army.mil. Landlords looking to have their properties reviewed for its list can do so by contacting the post housing office at 772-7319.

Mr. Bamann said the local efforts would be in place until this summer, when the military is expected to establish a comparable site of its own.

The news came in about six weeks ago, and Mr. Bamann said learning of the change was a “disappointment.”

As it waits for a new site to come online, the extra work will put a strain on the four-person staff of the housing office.

Mr. Bamann said that with the area’s current influx of housing, the impact of such a change may not be drastic.

It was reported during the Dec. 5 Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization meeting that the area had an approximately 4.8 percent vacancy rate for housing.

For the local market, the website has about 180 listings, according to Paul C. Giese, project manager of the site for Runzheimer International.

The site will remain active in the new year, even without the local inspections. However, Mr. Giese said that some of the site’s security features without a military tie are requiring housing posters to give complete information and actively maintain their postings.

He said registered users of the site have been informed of the change in status for 2014. In the new year, Mr. Giese said that the site may expand its accessibility to new military populations such as veterans.

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