Being in the air force means you will be on frequent moves from one base to another, and you may assume that housing is automatically taken care of. While this is generally true, you would still want to put some thoughts into your housing options. There will be long days at your job or during training, and all you wanted to do afterward is to rush home to have a good night sleep. There will be times when you have to take care of family emergencies. There will be occasions when you need support from other army families when your significant other is on deployment. In a lot of cases, your housing condition and location become a significant factor to consider.
There are two types of housing on every air force base, the government housing or the privatized housing. The government housing refers to houses/dormitories that are owned(and therefore managed by) the Air Force under Department of Defense; whereas the privatized housing applies to former government housing that is currently owned and operated by private or public entities in the civilian world. The government-owned housing is rent-free, while for privatized housing you will receive a BAH to pay rent to the private housing management company.
If you go off base, then you can choose to live in civilian housing in the nearby community and receives a basic housing allowance (BAH) to help you offset the rent.
Types of Air Force Housing
- Government housing (on base)
- Privatized housing (on base, formally government-sponsored housing)
- Civilian housing in the nearby community (off base)
Military Housing for Active Duty Service Members
Air Force has one of the best accommodation packages among all branches of armed service. In general, Air Force active duty service members without dependents live on base in the dormitories called unaccompanied housing. These government-sponsored unaccompanied housings are rent free. Airmen will get their private room, with a private or shared bathroom, furnishing, linens and other necessary supplies for living comfortably. Living in the dorm is mandatory for rank E1-E3, E4 with less than three years of services, and other essential personnel. For senior airmen, E4 or above, they can occupy a dorm room if there’s space available without BAH or live off base and receives a BAH.
During Basic Training and specific duty assignments, you will be living in open bay barracks.
Military Housing for Active Duty Service Members with Dependents
For Air Force active duty members with dependents, typically they will live off base in the local community and use BAH to pay for the rent there.(Dependents refers to spouses, children, and other registered immediate family members) Do we need to specify what kind of dependents?) Depend on what type of civilian housing you choose the BAH may or may not be able to cover the full cost of rent, let along utilities. You may have some out of pocket expenses in this situation.
Active Duty Service members can also live on base if they manage to have their name cross off the waitlist. On base family, housing are predominantly privatized housing, with a few government-owned housing. If you’re in the privatized housing, you will receive a BAH and pay to the private housing management every month. If you’re in government-owned housing, then it is rent free.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
Every year the the Defense Travel and Management Office oversee the collection, calculation and publishing of the current BAH rate for the year. Once it is determined, individual BAH rate for off base civilian housing will not change, regardless of which neighborhood you decide to live, what types of housing you decide to rent, or where your actual resident address is at. BAH is usually higher if you live in a pricey area and have dependents (eg. spouse, children). BAH used to be able to cover 100% of the non-government quarter housing in the past decade but starting in 2015, average active members are expected to pay some out of pocket expense for housing besides BAH. In 2018, the planning out of pocket expense is about 4% of national average housing cost per grade. ”
Even though the BAH rate is gauged from median national housing rental market, if you’re continuously receiving BAH without interruption, your individual BAH rate is protected from year to year. That means when the civilian housing market dips significantly from one year to another, your BAH rate won’t be reduced. On the contrary, if the civilian housing market price does rise, then your BAH rate will increase accordingly. This is only good news for those worrying about the rent bill.
Here is the 2019 BAH Rate Calculator on the Defense Travel and Management Office site. Check here to see the current BAH rate in your area with your rank.
Other Housing Allowances
- Family Separation Allowance(FSA)
- Dislocation Allowance (DLA) For those living overseas
- Oversea Housing Allowance (OHA)
- Moving-in housing allowance(MIHA)