Imagine working for an employer who requires that you must frequently change your role and job description and with each change, you must pick up and move all the way across the country. Oh, and you must do this every 1-3 years. But you are on your own to figure out how you will move and pack up your things, how you will pay for it, and where you will live when you get there. The whole process would get very tiring and you probably wouldn’t want to work for that company for very long. The least they could do would be to help you through the process.
When serving as an active duty service member, this scenario is close to reality. Responsibilities and titles change and you are PCS’d every couple of years. But the Department of Defense knows that this scenario is daunting and can be very draining on a family, therefore they try to make the process less burdensome by providing packing and moving help. The biggest help, though, comes in the form of offering on-base housing or housing compensation for living off-base. This is a huge benefit for military families.
What is Basic Allowance for Housing?
The United States Military ensures that every active duty service member has somewhere to live. The housing options vary based on location, pay grade and dependency status. Many military bases have on-base, military housing in the form of barracks, dorms, duplexes, and single-family homes. Bases that do not have on-base housing, or that do not have enough to cover all personnel, offer Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) pay.
Every service member receives BAH pay in addition to their salary to cover housing costs such as rent and utilities. When living overseas, service members receive an Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) that operates a little differently.
Do Service Members Have to Live On Base?
The short answer is no, all service members do not have to live on the military installation where they are stationed, depending on their rank. Single service members ranked E1-E4 with less than three years of service live in unaccompanied housing which usually consists of a shared room or apartment-style housing on base. Servicemen of higher rank, or with longer terms of service are eligible to live off-base.
Typically, those with high rank or with at least one dependent are eligible for on-base housing. On base, housing consists of 2-4 bedroom single family homes or duplexes that may be located directly on or near the base. As of 2023, 99% of military housing is run by private sector companies in partnership with the military. These neighborhoods, though privatized, are still comprised only of military families, and these private companies know the ins and outs of housing military families using BAH pay.
Does Military Pay for Off-Base Housing?
Eligible servicemembers who prefer to live off base still receive BAH pay to help cover housing costs. Though there is not an officially designated person to help you find an off-base home, the Housing Management Office at your new station will likely offer advice, guidance, and connection to local realtors who are experienced in working with military families.
There is no requirement for how you must use your BAH pay. You may choose to enter into a rental agreement or purchase a home and use your BAH pay to cover rent or your mortgage.
Additionally, you do not have to use your entire BAH pay for a housing payment or limit your budget to your BAH pay. You may choose to pocket and save some portion of your BAH pay for other expenses, or you can choose to pay the difference out of pocket if your home expenses cost more than the BAH pay you receive.
There are many reasons military families choose to live off-base including proximity to spouse’s job, living closer to desired amenities, school zoning, and desiring to put down roots.
How Much is BAH Pay?
The amount of BAH pay a service member receives depends on a number of factors. These include the duty station, pay grade, and dependency status. Rates are based on pay grade with differentiation between Enlisted, Warrant Officers, and Officers. Each base location uses the local housing market as a base for housing allowance assessment. This means that the amount of BAH pay changes with each PCS, though it will always cover the cost of housing in the local market. Additionally, a service member with dependents receives a higher BAH pay rate than members of the same rank without dependents. Sometimes the dependent rate is up to 20% higher.
Finding Housing Near Luke AFB and Davis Monthan AFB
Have you recently been PCSd to Arizona? Our team at Desert Heroes is well-versed in military housing operations as we each have military connections or experience. We are here to help you navigate using your BAH pay to find your next home whether you are looking to rent or buy.
Call us today to get started!