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Military expected to pay more out of pocket for housing

NAS Patuxent River, MD- The 2017 Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates increased by an average of 2.4 percent across the country. However, even with that increase, military members are now expected to pay more out of pocket expenses for their housing.

The BAH program used to cover 99 percent of housing expenses, including rent, utilities and renter’s insurance. That’s been changing. Starting this year, service members are expected to cover at least 3 percent of their housing costs. By 2019, that will increase to 5 percent.

The change was approved in 2015. The National Defense Authorization Act allowed the Department of Defense to reintroduce a member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense). That same year, renter’s insurance was eliminated from the BAH rate compilation. On average, the cost of renter’s insurance is $20 a month. Service members will need to budget for this expense separately.

According to the Department of Defense, the cost-sharing amounts incorporated in the 2017 BAH rates vary by pay grade and dependency statuses and range from $37 to $85 monthly. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefit package remains robust and healthy.

The Department of Defense reminds service members BAH is designed to assist with acquiring housing comparable to civilians in the same income range near their duty station. BAH rates are set based on the median housing cost for each pay grade and housing profile. BAH is also based on rental data, not mortgage payments. The rates are determined using the current rental market and average cost of utilities in each local market. The BAH rates change as those factors change.

Because BAH is computed from median rent and local averages, it is not intended to cover every service member’s total housing costs. Some members may incur out-of-pocket expenses based on their actual housing choices.

If you’re already stationed at NAS Patuxent River, the BAH did drop for junior enlisted service members. The BAH rate for E1 through E4 dropped $15 for service members with dependents and the BAH rate for E5 dropped $54 a month for service members with dependents. Most other pay grades and service members without dependents did see an increase in BAH rates.

If the previous years BAH rate was higher, military members are locked in to that rate, as long as they don’t have a reduction in pay grade or a change in dependency status.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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