All military families know that military life involves moving, moving, and more moving. You learn to adapt and roll with the changes quite quickly. Are you new to military life and learning the air force base housing rules for living on or off base? Or perhaps you’ve just been PCS’d to a base in Arizona, and your previous station had different air force base housing rules and regulations? In either case, you might have many questions, and playing phone tag with the housing office can take up valuable time that could be better spent organizing, packing, and researching the new area where you will live.

To help you, we have put together a basic guide to housing with the air force, living off base or on base. Hopefully, your questions will be answered, and at the very least, your time spent on the phone will be minimized.

On Base Housing

On-base housing refers to military housing that is physically on the military base or owned by the military. This type of housing is available only to active duty military members and their dependents while they are considered active duty. This government housing is provided and paid for by the government and issued based on need, rank, and availability.

Each military base has its own process and method for assignment, as availability and housing styles vary widely from base to base. Base size and personnel volume also significantly affect the availability of on-base housing.

Typically, military rank, years of service, and family size determines the type of housing you are eligible for.

Barracks and Dormitories

Service members who are unmarried or whose families do not reside with them are called unaccompanied personnel. Typically, unaccompanied service members of certain paygrades are required to live in on-base barracks, dormitories, or bachelor enlisted quarters.

In the past, these housing quarters have had a reputation for being outdated and overcrowded, but due to changes in standards and requirements, all dormitories on military bases have recently been or are currently being renovated to modernize conditions and increase the quality of life for those members who live there.

All single airmen in pay grades E-1 to E-3 and E-4 with less than three years of military service are required to live in unaccompanied, on-base housing. Unaccompanied E-4’s with three years of service and pay grades above are permitted to live off-base.

Family Housing

Married service members, or those with children, are not required to live in barracks or dormitories. Military bases provide housing options based on family size. In many cases, bases will have small suburban-like neighborhoods in a section of the base where service members with children and wives may live. These neighborhoods often contain schools, parks, playgrounds, and recreation areas such as swimming pools, soccer fields, and tennis courts.

These on-base housing quarters vary in style and size from base to base. Some may have small single or two-story houses, while others will have multi-family dwellings such as duplexes or fourplexes. These homes are limited and often have wait lists for move-in assignments. When living on base, your BAH (basic allowance for housing) pay is automatically deducted from your paycheck and sent to the property management company.

Privatized Housing

Because on-base housing for families and unaccompanied service members above E-4 is limited, the Defense Department is shifting to rely on the private sector for military family housing. These homes are typically located in the local community directly off-base and operate in much of the same manner that on-base housing works. Neighborhoods are comprised almost entirely of military families, and designation is based on family size and pay grade or rank.

In some cases, to keep these neighborhoods profitable for the private sector, military members from various branches, such as the national guard, marine corps, and army, or retired veterans, as well as civilian employees on base, may be eligible to live in privatized military housing.

Unlike base housing, though, privatized housing operates like a civilian rental property. You must sign a lease agreement and pay the property managers with your BAH pay. All leasing agreements will have a military clause should you be reassigned before your lease ends.

Off Base Housing

When you are eligible to live off-base, you have the option of using your BAH pay to rent a home or to purchase your own property. Many service members use this as an opportunity to invest in the housing market, with some even building a collection of rental properties to be used as investment properties with each reassignment.

When living off-base in civilian housing, you can use your BAH pay to pay the rent or mortgage each month. For each base, BAH pay is based on the market price of homes and rentals in that specific area. Therefore you should be able to pay for a home of equal or greater value than you would live in if you chose on-base housing.

The decision between renting and buying is not a small one, and each family is free to make the choice that fits their lifestyle best. If you live near Luke Air Force Base or Davis Monthan Air Force Base, our team of real estate professionals at Desert Heroes can help you secure the best home for you and your family. We all come from military-affiliated backgrounds, so we understand the complexities of military life, which makes us the best real estate team for you.

Whether you are looking to buy, rent, or simply have questions about the market in this area, we are here to help. Call us today to begin your journey to your new Arizona home.