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BAH military housing allowances to rise slightly in 2016

Chuck Vinch | Military Times

There is both good news and bad news for active-duty service members and their families in the new 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates that will take effect Jan. 1.

The good news: Average rates will climb by 3.4 percent in the aggregate across all locations and paygrades, or an average of about $54 per month in dollar terms, defense officials say.

In fact, among the 138 BAH locations with at least 800 assigned troops receiving the allowance, only 34 — roughly one-quarter — will see average rates decline.

And among the 104 such locations that will see average BAH rate hikes, some of the increases are significant: 13.5 percent for Travis Air Force Base, California; 13.3 percent for the Seattle area; almost 12 percent for the greater Atlanta region; and almost 9 percent for Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, for example.

The downside: 2016 will mark the second phase of a five-year plan approved by Congress under which service members receiving BAH will pay an increasing percentage of average off-base housing costs out of their own pockets.

Under that plan, the portion of housing costs borne by BAH recipients is increasing by one percentage point a year, which means that next year, they will pay 2 percent of national average housing costs out of pocket, with their housing allowance covering the rest. By 2019, that cost-sharing formula will rise to a maximum of 5 percent.

The move, which military advocacy groups are none too happy about, is designed to "slow the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible and sustainable way," defense officials said in a press release.

The Pentagon's BAH budget line is expected to hit $21 billion in 2016, with the allowance being paid to about 1 million service members.

Housing cost data are collected each year for more than 300 military housing areas in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. Local commands are able to provide input on the specific neighborhoods in which data is collected, and to "direct the data collection effort towards adequate apartment complexes and individual housing units," defense officials say.

Total housing costs are developed for six types of housing — apartments, townhomes and single-family homes — that expand in size as paygrades increase.

An integral part of the BAH program is "individual rate protection" for all recipients. What that means is that as long as a service member is assigned to a specific area, their housing allowance rates will never decrease from year to year, regardless of how overall housing costs in the surrounding area may change.

That ensures troops who arrange long-term housing leases or contracts aren't penalized if their area's housing costs decrease.

The Defense Department maintains an online BAH calculator at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/bahCalc.cfm.

Complete BAH rates for 2016:

2016 BAH Rates With Dependents

2016 BAH Rates Without Dependents

Topics
DoD
Family
Financial Assistance