15 fam 250

HOUSING program management

(CT:OBO-96;   12-20-2019)
(Office of Origin:  OBO)

15 FAM 251  Local Real Estate Market

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

A survey of the local real estate market provides an objective assessment of current market conditions, and enables post to select competitively from a range of housing.  (See 15 FAM 212.6.)  The local market assessment should include background information on the general availability of housing, requirements for residential security standards, and other security considerations (location of schools, costs, etc.).  Post should use the results of the survey to document conditions related to the cost and availability of suitable housing.  To assist with the establishment and/or review of rental benchmarks, posts must submit their annual housing market survey to OBO/PRE/RPL/PM no later than December 31 of each year.  If local housing that meets space standards is unavailable, post must prepare appropriate supporting information.


15 FAM 252.1  Cost

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

Cost is a prime consideration in the selection of housing.  Costs of residential properties will vary according to location, quality of construction, and amenities (verandas or balconies, recreational facilities, gardens, garages, etc.).  A comparative review of annual rental costs should be a basis for housing selection.  In addition, independent market surveys should be used to support post selections.  OBO-developed rental benchmarks govern the rental cost at many posts.

15 FAM 252.2  Space

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

Space is an important criterion in selecting properties for housing abroad, but it is not the overriding factor—particularly in markets where housing availability is limited and/or other restrictions limit where employees may live.  Selection criteria should include, but not be limited to:

(1)  Suitability for inclusion in the housing pool in terms of size, design layout, potential occupants’ long-term requirements, and desired locations;

(2)  Special employee circumstances;

(3)  The regional security officer’s (RSO’s) or post security officer’s (PSO’s) approval for all security requirements; and

(4)  The post occupational and safety health officer’s (POSHO’s) approval to address the availability of normal amenities (electricity, telephone, indoor plumbing), and to meet safety and health criteria.

15 FAM 252.3  Distance

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

When applying these guidelines, post’s management and post’s interagency housing board (IAHB) must seek suitable housing at the best possible cost to the U.S. Government.  They must consider all locations meeting, or that can be modified to meet, security and safety criteria and that are within a reasonable commute.  The Department defines a ‘reasonable commute’ as 45 minutes one way (the Washington, DC average for U.S. Government employees).  The RSO or regional medical officer (RMO) may recommend that post’s IAHB establish a longer/shorter time for security or environmental concerns.  Geographic housing considerations beyond security or environmental reasons, e.g., employee convenience, are not acceptable.

15 FAM 252.4  Security Considerations

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

The Office of Physical Security Programs, Countermeasures Directorate, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS/C/PSP), is responsible for the Residential Security Program (RSP).  DS/C/PSP ensures the RSO equitably implements residential security standards, policies, and procedures for all agencies under chief-of-mission (COM) authority.  The RSP provides for a secure environment for the residences of U.S. citizen direct-hire employees (USDH) and their eligible family members (EFMs) sent abroad to conduct official business for the U.S. Government at Foreign Service posts.  The Project Coordination Division, Office of Physical Security Programs, Countermeasures Directorate, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS/C/PSP/PCD), provides administrative and operational management and oversight for all aspects of RSPs implemented at U.S. diplomatic missions abroad.  Residential security policies and guidelines are found in:

·         12 FAH 8 Residential Security Handbook

·         12 FAH-6 H-130 OSPB Standards- Political Violence and Terrorism

·         12 FAH-6 H-410 OSPB Standards- Crime

15 FAM 252.5  Safety, Health, and Environmental Requirements

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

a. During housing selection, 15 FAM requires the identification of any safety, health, and environmental hazards (which may cause dangerous conditions, serious injuries, or fatalities). The intent is to correct serious hazards and then, through effective management, ensure that safe conditions persist for as long as the residence is occupied.  If the property is under the U.S. Government’s consideration for purchase or lease, post must verify and document that the post occupational safety and health officer (POSHO) has inspected the residence for safety, health, and environmental hazards, and that those hazards have been effectively controlled or eliminated.  Conduct and document similar inspection for living quarters allowance (LQA) residences.  15 FAM 970 and the POSHO Certification Application define the certification requirements.  The employee must negotiate with the landlord to correct deficiencies identified in the POSHO property inspection.  Otherwise, the employee must find another suitable residence.  Please note that employees under COM authority may not occupy a U. S. Government-owned/-leased residence without the POSHO safety and health certification.

b. The POSHO must also use the Department of State Residential Safety, Health, and Fire Prevention Awareness Checklist.  This guide assists in identifying other unsafe conditions to be resolved either prior to occupancy or immediately after occupancy.  (See 15 FAM Exhibit 111.)

c.  Complete and document the POSHO inspections and certifications in OBO’s POSHO Certification Application, and maintain a copy of the certification at post as part of the property record.  Certify operating lease (OL) properties at lease inception, and re-certify at each lease renewal, not to exceed 5 years.  Certify government-owned (GO) and capital-lease (CL) properties initially and every 5 years thereafter.

15 FAM 252.6  Natural Hazards Safety Guidance

(CT:OBO-60;   11-02-2017)

a. Post’s management and IAHB will use the guidance herein to seek suitable housing with the lowest possible risk to life safety from natural hazards (floods, landslides, tropical cyclones/hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.).

b. Posts must report natural hazard issues. Some examples are:

(1)  Concerns about seismic activity;

(2)  Chronic and historic flooding;

(3)  Windows, doors, and exterior structures vulnerable to high winds or flying debris; or

(4)  Unstable or eroding slopes or foundations which might threaten life safety.

    NOTE:  Unstable or eroding slopes or foundations might qualify for assessment and mitigation under the Natural Hazards Program (NHP).

c.  All projects will require coordination of planning and funding efforts within the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).  Coordination might include the Civil/Structural Engineering Division, Office of Design and Engineering, Directorate for Program, Development, Coordination, and Support (PDCS/DE/CSE); the Office of Area Management, Directorate for Operations (OPS/AM); the Office of Facility Management, Directorate for Construction, Facility, and Security Management (CFSM/FAC); and/or other offices.

d. OBO’s civil, geotechnical, and structural engineers assist posts in identifying potential life-safety threats due to natural events.  They also develop and implement solutions to reduce future injury to personnel and damage to facilities.

e. To define issues and implement solutions, PDCS/DE/CSE works with posts to identify qualified local engineers and construction contractors to assist OBO efforts.  If local resources are not readily available, PDCS/DE/CSE enlists the services of U.S. architectural and engineering (A/E) consultants and construction contractors.  Post’s general services officer (GSO) or the facility manager (FM) manages many mitigation projects.  OBO manages larger projects, which may exceed post resources.

f.  Posts in high-seismic areas (see the OBO Natural Hazards Program on the OBO web page, OBO/PDCS/DE, Site Index) must:

(1)  Address the seismic adequacy of residential units (primarily in multiunit buildings) and seek housing that is seismically the best available;

(2)  Include seismic life safety in the housing purchase-/lease-decision matrix; and

(3)  Evaluate the seismic safety of residential buildings using any one (or more) of the following means and methods:

(a)  Assessing seismic adequacy by engaging the services of a local structural engineer (chosen either by owner and/or by post);

(b)  Requesting municipality assistance in obtaining design/construction documents (building permit sets) to aid in determining seismic safety; and

(c)  Requesting services of OBO in-house professional engineering staff and/or OBO seismic consultants.

NOTE:  Posts must coordinate their residential seismic assessment efforts with OBO’s Natural Hazards Program.  Given that seismically adequate housing stock is relatively limited in some regions of the world, adhere to the guidance in this section as part of a rational plan (in conjunction with OBO) to reduce seismic risk.  For further information or assistance, contact OBO’s Natural Hazards Program Manager in the Civil/Structural Engineering Division, Office of Design and Engineering, Directorate for Program, Development, Coordination, and Support, Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/PDCS/DE/CSE).

15 FAM 252.7  Fire and Life Safety Guidance

(CT:OBO-96;   12-20-2019)

a. When leasing or acquiring high-rise properties, the POSHO and post’s management will follow the guidance outlined in 15 FAM 813.7, Acquiring High-Rise Properties.

b. Single-family residences and properties/apartments that are not high-rises have separate inspection requirements.  Use the National Fire Protection Associations Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) for inspecting these cases.

c.  Representational residences in high-rise buildings must be approved by the Office of Fire Protection (OBO/OPS/FIRE).