When you first receive orders to PCS, one of the first questions is housing. Should live on post in the barracks or family housing, or off base in the local community?
Choosing housing is not an easy option, and several factors need to be taken into consideration. A majority of military personnel and their families can come to a decision about where to live based on a few simple factors.
1. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) is a stipend paid to service members who choose to live off base. A service member BAH is calculated by their rank, number of dependents and duty station location. The housing allowance in some areas can be as low as a few hundred dollars a month in some areas and several thousand dollars a month in others not far away. Much of the amount given is based on the cost of housing in the area. The goal of BAH is to give service members the ability to rent a comfortable, but modest home in a community near their duty station. If your calculated BAH isn’t going to be enough to live comfortably off base, than on post housing is the best options. This is often the case in densely populated urban areas like California and Florida, where the cost of living is significantly higher that the allotted BAH for most pay grades.
If you have school aged children, or plan on having children in the near future, this is going to be a big consideration. On base housing often has its own school system attached to it. It’s important for you to research the on base schools and the off base options for your children. The quality of an elementary school teacher can make a lasting impact on the future of a small child. Depending on your values and the age of your children, you may choose to send your kids to a different, and possibly better school district than the one on base. Often times this will require you to live off base and within a specific school district.
If you have a certain number or breed of pet, this can severely impact your housing options and selection. Not all on base housing options have fenced yards for pets, and in some cases they don’t allow pets. Several bases have restrictions in place on certain breeds of pets as well. For instance, several US military bases have a blanket ban on pit bulls in any base housing facilities. If your pet is allowed on base, it is highly recommend that you call beforehand to make sure there are no potential issues. Likewise, many civilian housing options also have very specific regulations regarding pets, in some cases these may be stricter than housing rules on base.
4. Size and Square Footage
On base housing options are generally smaller than of base options. If you’ve got a family requiring four or more bedrooms, off base housing is likely going to be your best option. Not only are on base housing facilities smaller, but there are generally few options for larger families. Getting on one of these larger on base houses can require a long wait can be particularly difficult for lower ranking enlisted personnel.
Deciding where to live at your next duty station is a huge decision that impacts your entire family. Your best option is to thoroughly evaluate the needs of your family and research the options and community at your next duty station. It’s also a good idea to consult with your current and new command if you have an open line of communication. Leadership from both the current and incoming commands can be a great resource and give valuable insight on the best options for you and your family.