The Housing Crisis Impact on Military Families

Given current, volatile economic realities, for many American families, the cost of owning or renting a house or apartment has gone through the roof. This is even more true in certain areas of the country. For military families, this is a particularly familiar and painful problem.

On Thursday, 9/22/22, the Department of Defense personnel chief presented a list of initiatives to help improve quality of life issues for military families. It does so by raising the monthly Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for some 114,267 military families who are stationed in 28 specific Military Housing Areas around the country.

Photo: Picryl/U.S. NAVY

The reality is that the BAH that these families have been receiving is currently falling about 20% short of the rising housing costs in those 28 areas. The package that the DoD personnel chief presented will also include efforts to improve childcare, employ spouses, and ease change-of-station moves, which are a regular part of the reality for most military families.

This issue takes on real importance in economic times like the present. Housing costs, especially in many urban areas, some more so than others, are climbing rapidly. It is absolutely essential for the country and for the DoD to maintain good retention rates and the quality of life for our military service members and their families. According to an interview in the Military Times, the Defense Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, Gil Cisneros, says, “The action ordered by the [Defense] Secretary, [Lloyd Austin], today reflects the Department’s commitment to honor our troops’ service and ensure we continue to offer a competitive suite of benefits that makes DoD an employer of choice for those who selflessly serve.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel Case

According to the Military Times article, It was “not clear whether there will be an across-the-board percentage increase in troops’ BAH, but the dollar amount of the increase will vary based on location, rank, and whether or not there are dependents.” The Military Times article gave two examples of the kind of BAH hikes that will occur in a couple of the 28 areas mentioned above. For example, an E-6 with dependents living in Kings Bay, GA, will receive an increase of $198.00 per month under this new boost in the BAH. An E-5 with dependents living in Boston, MA, will receive a boost of $1,100 per month. This will give you a sense of the fact that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for military families living in areas that are more expensive by nature, or where the housing costs are growing faster than in other areas.

Photo: Picryl/U.S. NAVY

This initiative is extremely important. Our military service members sacrifice a great deal already in their commitment to serve the nation in this way. They sacrifice in more ways than most other demographics in society, both in terms of the nature of their service and in terms of the fact that their salaries, though they have improved dramatically since my time in the military, remain relatively low in comparison to the rest of society. This is especially true for those military members who are married and have families. It is not unusual, as we all know, for a military spouse to be deployed, and the spouse remaining at home has to manage the household expenses along with caring for their children without the presence and aid of their spouse. It behooves the nation and the DoD to be mindful of the current needs of our military families.

Photo: Flickr/USACE Europe District

Our nation’s defense depends on a well-trained, professional military. It is a matter of justice that those who serve so proudly and so well should have the confidence and the financial ability to care for their family’s well-being, especially when they are deployed. There are worries enough already for our military service members and their families, worries that most of us do not have to experience.

We are glad to hear that the DoD is raising the Basic Allowance for Housing for those military families who need it the most due to the cost of housing and childcare, etc. in the 28 areas of the country that have been included on the DoD’s list. It makes sense, both as a matter of justice to our military families and as a recognition of the economic realities that over one-hundred thousand of those families face.

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