To live in military housing or out on the economy? That is the first question.

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Capt. Gerral David, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, leads guests on a tour of new homes. The houses added 359 new residences for sailors and their families at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Crescent Harbor, Victory Park and Maylor Point family housing. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Second Class Elizabeth Acosta)

So, you're due for a permanent change of station order or received orders, and you're probably thinking about where you're going to live and what are your housing options.

Sometimes, you might not have a choice. Based on the base situation, you may be forced into housing or out on the economy.

If you do have options, you've got a lot of things to think about: housing costs, school locations, access to leisure activities, and what about the family pet? These are just a few things to think about when making decisions that are best for you and your family.

Housing options for military personnel and military families are in flux lately as the DoD and DHS attempt to find the right balance between cost effective and meeting the needs of military families. The exact ratio is always in flux as Pentagon attempts to address budget issues.

There are five different housing options that you might encounter:

    1. Privatized military housing
    2. Government-owned military housing
    3. Single or unaccompanied military housing
    4. Rent a home/apartment off installation
    5. Buy a home/condo off installation

Check with your unit's housing office for help with temporary housing and to apply for housing allowances.

Living in military housing

The base housing options can vary widely from location to location. Options can include:

  • Public-private ventures are housing units that are new, improved or renovated. Rent is based on the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) with the estimated cost of utilities included. Rent will not cover telephone, cable or internet service. Rent for member-to-member couples is based on the BAH at the "with-dependent" rate for the senior member. Your local housing office will have more information about availability and amenities.
  • Government-owned housing is the traditional base housing options. Your housing is owned and maintained by the Department of Defense. With this option, you give up your Basic Allowance for housing, but you don't pay rent or utilities.
  • Single or unaccompanied housing for service members is a single or shared room with a private or shared bath. Bonus with this housing option? You don't have to pay rent or most utilities. You do, however, give up your housing allowance.

Living on the economy

If you feel the need to get away from work, living on the economy might be right for you. Compare your housing allowance to your expected housing costs before you make your final decision. Member's frequently explore areas near their duty assignment to get the best location or a cheaper rent/mortgage. Don't forget utilities, renter's insurance, Once you've done your homework, you can choose between buying or renting a home.

To Rent or Buy

So, you've decided to live off your installation. Here's some information to think about:

Renting a home

If renting seems like the better option, here are some things to consider before signing that lease:

  • Communicate your military situation to the management/landlord.
  • Know your rights. The Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives military members special legal protections when renting. Visit your unit's legal assistance office for more information.
  • Get renter's insurance. This will protect you and your property.
  • Know the pet policy. Will they allow you to have a pet? Do they limit based on size or breed? How much is the pet deposit? Check out policies governing specific breeds of dogs as there may be some restrictions.
  • Find out about parking. Is parking included in the rent or is it an extra charge? Covered or uncovered? Reserved spot?

Purchasing a home

If you've decided you want put down roots and buy, here is what you need to know:

  • Figure out what it will cost to buy and maintain your home and any homeowners association fees, if applicable.
  • Find a house that fits your family's size, lifestyle and needs.
  • Plan what you will do if you are transferred or deployed.
  • Go on a housing-hunting trip beforehand, if possible.
  • Find the commuting times to your work.
  • Check to see if the Military and Family Support Center, the housing office or the VA is offering a class on home buying and your benefits.

The home buying process is a significant and exciting time so remember to give yourself time to make an informed decision.

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Date of original publication:
Updated on: July 12, 2017

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