Hundreds of decades-old houses inside the Charleston Air Force Base are being demolished to make way for modern homes for airmen of all ranks and their families.

The demolitions -- and the news that hundreds of replacement homes will eventually take their place -- is good news on several fronts. First, it eases fears that the base might be on the chopping block when Congress' next round of military closures and realignments is announced.

Charleston air base housing manager Stephen Campbell said Monday the demolitions are part of long-standing plans as the Pentagon seeks to privatize its military housing. Additionally, the structures, built between 1959 and 1961, are too outdated to upgrade, he said.

"They're old, they're small, there's no garage," Campbell said. "We've renovated them four times already. They have really reached their life expectancy."

By the numbers, at least 726 homes will be demolished on the base. Under a privatization contract with Ohio-based Forest City Military Communities LLC, a minimum of 345 units will take their place. That figure is expected to increase as demand for on-base housing goes up.

Campbell said he expects the need for Air Force Base housing to grow as Boeing's new manufacturing plant in North Charleston puts more pressure on housing availability, pushing up costs and rents.

The Air Force this week announced Forest City won the contract to redevelop military family housing at four bases, including two in South Carolina. The deal is worth about $270 million.

Under the arrangement, Forest City will build nearly 2,200 replacement homes at Shaw and Charleston Air Force Bases in South Carolina, and also at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee and Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, published reports said.

About 10 percent of the Charleston base's 3,800 personnel live in base housing. Airmen who had lived in the housing have been moved to Hunley Park, an Air Force neighborhood nearby.

Materials such as tin, copper and concrete are being salvaged from the hundreds of Charleston Air Force Base houses and are being recycled. Hazardous materials are not a factor since the base had an asbestos-removal contract 20 years ago, Campbell said.

Nationally, the Air Force's housing privatization effort has affected 43 installations, and almost 70 percent offamily housing --or about 38,000 units --has been privatized.

Charleston's primary mission is as a home for the Air Force's C-17 cargo planes.