Today I have a wonderful guest post from the awesome people at SpouseLink!
The Pros and Cons of On or Off Base Housing for Military Families
A single servicemember has a variety of housing options to choose from, but for a military family there are just two: on base or off base. The decision to live on base or off can sometimes be difficult, one that may change based on certain variables, if your spouse might deploy, how many children you have, or if you have pets. In some cases you may not have a choice in the matter based on housing availability or if you are stationed overseas. It is important to research the specific base and the surrounding areas as amenities and neighborhoods may vary from location to location.
Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of living on or off base.
Pros for living on base
A Welcoming Military Community
Many military families appreciate the support that a military community brings. Being in an environment that has like-minded families who understand what you are going through because they are experiencing the same situations is comforting.
Free Grounds Maintenance
Lawn services, garbage removal, snow plowing and weather treatment is included in the maintenance while on base. This is an expense that a family may incur off base with a housing association or with the state.
If you have more than one child, living on base may be your best bet. You will probably receive a single family home or a townhouse for the same cost as an apartment. You will also have access to pools, playgrounds, and other family friendly amenities.
There are slight peripheral cost savings for living on base. You will reduce costs by not having a commute, groceries are cheaper, and the on base shopping is cheaper when using the commissary or PX. Military housing may exceed the standard of living in a surrounding area especially if you would be living in a city or where the cost of living would be high.
Living on a base brings a heightened sense of security. Many on base housing locations are within the base itself or are in a secure, gated community. This is a comforting feeling when your spouse is deployed and there will be long stretches where you and your family will be alone.
Many servicemembers choose to live on base for the convenience and proximity to base amenities. Shopping, parks, pools, recreational centers, childcare, and schools are all conveniently located on base. Servicemembers will also have quick access to the commissary, BX, PX, and other military resources. Another convenience is the lack of commute to work.
Cons for living on base
If you are looking to live on base, make sure to check in advance for a waiting list. Some bases have waiting lists ranging from a few weeks to a few months. You might have to find off base housing before accommodations open up. For your protection choose an apartment that has a monthly rental agreement. Trying to get out of a yearly contract can be difficult.
Some military housing can be too small, dilapidated, and can lack modern amenities. According to the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Installation Environment website, 43 percent of all military housing have not been updated in the past ten years.
The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC)
BRAC is an initiative that closes military bases based on the military’s needs. When the military believes a base is no longer necessary, then the families that live on base need to be relocated to other bases or are forced to live off base.
May not be pet friendly
Some bases have a list of restrictive dog breeds. If you are relocated and own one of these breeds, you may have to re-home your pet or find other living arrangements.
Lack of choice
You may not get a choice on where you live or what type of house you are assigned. All military housing is separated by rank and family size, so you won’t have an opportunity to hand pick your home.
Pros for living off base
Sense of freedom
Servicemembers get to go home and feel relief from being watched by their leaders and fellow servicemembers. The idea that they can separate their work life from their home life is an important aspect that keeps them at peace when at home.
Comparative pricing for the best deals
Some families like the ability to make choices about their home services. From TV and internet providers to utilities to shopping, you may be able to get a great deal by having the freedom to shop around.
Size of your home
When living off base you are given the option to choose the house that fits your family’s needs. Between size, location, and amenities, you are able to find the right home for your family size.
Customize your design
You can personalize your home the way you want. There are no limitations to décor or home improvements that you would like to make. There is no review process or approvals needed to make your home the way you want it to be.
Basic Allowance for Housing
Military members and their families can receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) to compensate for living expenses off base. Allowances are based on location, pay, and dependency status. Some families have even been able to live below the BAH and receive an income from the allowance.
Cons for living off base
Loss of the Military Community
Some families miss the feeling of the built in military community living on base offers. Whether it’s the sound of PT in the morning or the feeling that others understand the sacrifices you make as a military family, this team environment is often missed by many military families.
Loss of Convenience
The commute to the base for support groups, events, or shopping could be longer than if living on base. You will not be able to just stroll out of your front door and walk to your events.
Expensive surrounding area
Different regions have a high cost of living. Whether its food costs or rent, these higher costs add up fast and will hit your family’s budget.
If you are being relocated for a short amount of time or do not know how long you will be at a base, you will need a short-term lease or a lease that is less than a year. For many, these leases are too expensive or not available in the areas they are located.
When making your decision it is important to get as much information as possible. As a military family you have access to many services through the housing referral office on your future or current base. The staff at these offices are experts and can help you with information about base policies, surrounding neighborhoods, costs of on and off base living, and can guide you through your decision making process. You should also consult with your on base financial counselor at your old and new duty station.
About the Author
SpouseLink.org is a free website that supports, informs and inspires the military spouse community with a variety of content ranging from finances to military transitions to parenting and portable career resources.
Be sure to check them out on their social media!