As increases to troop levels across the Middle East continue unabated, all is quiet on the home front. Too quiet, in fact, for multifamily property managers and owners in military towns facing huge occupancy drops at properties traditionally leased up by men and women in uniform.

“Between the two Gulf Wars, we had one or two Air Defense Battalions constantly deployed to the Middle East, but we [were] only talking about 400 to 1,000 troops,” says Jerry Carlson, executive director of the El Paso (Texas) Apartment Association. “But when the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was deployed in 2006, the departure of 4,000 folks at one time was overwhelming. The exodus of these young families was quite devastating to our market.”

Airborne deployments from Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C., have had a chilling effect on multifamily vacancies, which have sat in the low- to mid-80s throughout 2007. “That's down 10 [percent] to 15 percent from our normal levels,” says Rita Jones, president of the Cumberland County Apartment Association. “It is a really tough market.”

Fayetteville property managers are combatting vacancies with discounts and incentives, including free or discounted first month's rent or lowering rental rates all together. But Jones says the best tactic has been to beef up on quality-of-life offerings. “The older communities without the clubhouses and with little to offer in the way of amenities are looking at vacancies in the 70s,” she says.