USA — Most Housing Rates Dip for 2011 as Pay, Subsistence Increase

WASHINGTON — Most mil­i­tary hous­ing allowance rates will decrease slight­ly for 2011, but ser­vice­mem­bers will receive, on aver­age, as much or slight­ly more mon­ey than they did this year, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials said today.
Cheryl Anne Woehr, hous­ing allowance pro­gram ana­lyst, said over­all rates are fair­ly sta­ble.
“On aver­age, they’ll decrease about six tenths of a per­cent,” she said.

The 2011 Basic Allowance for Hous­ing rates take effect Jan. 1. A pro­vi­sion ensur­ing against rate decreas­es for ser­vice­mem­bers already sta­tioned at a loca­tion means sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines will receive an aver­age 1.1 per­cent increase, Woehr said. That over­all increase is “because of the effects of indi­vid­ual rate pro­tec­tion and the dis­tri­b­u­tion of ser­vice­mem­bers through­out the [Unit­ed States],” she explained.

Indi­vid­ual rate pro­tec­tion ensures that mem­bers who have made lease or con­tract com­mit­ments for hous­ing aren’t penal­ized if an area’s costs decline. Any decreas­es apply only to mem­bers who move to a loca­tion after rates change. Even if hous­ing allowance rates decrease over two or more years, mil­i­tary mem­bers sta­tioned in the same loca­tion are assured their pre­vi­ous, high­er rate, Woehr said.

“They receive the high­er of what they were paid Dec. 31, or the new rate,” she said. “If the rates go down one year, the ser­vice­mem­ber receives the pre­vi­ous year’s rate. If the rates go down again, the ser­vice­mem­ber would con­tin­ue to get that year-one rate.”

The allowance cov­ers hous­ing costs for ser­vice­mem­bers liv­ing off mil­i­tary instal­la­tions in the Unit­ed States; those who live in gov­ern­ment hous­ing don’t receive the allowance. Ser­vice­mem­bers sta­tioned over­seas who live in pri­vate hous­ing receive the over­seas hous­ing allowance. Rates for that allowance are reviewed at least every six months, defense finance offi­cials said.

“The real­i­ty is, the [basic allowance for hous­ing] rates vary and the changes in the rates vary across the coun­try, with some hous­ing areas decreas­ing as much as 8 per­cent and oth­ers increas­ing more than 10 per­cent,” Woehr said. “Rent is the largest com­po­nent of the BAH rates, so that has the most influ­ence on what rates do.”

The allowance rate is com­put­ed annu­al­ly for each mil­i­tary hous­ing area and is based on three fac­tors: medi­an cur­rent mar­ket rent; aver­age util­i­ties, includ­ing water and sew­er, elec­tric­i­ty and heat­ing costs; and aver­age renter’s insur­ance.

Total costs are assessed for six hous­ing pro­files, based on dwelling type and num­ber of bed­rooms, in each mil­i­tary hous­ing area. Hous­ing allowance rates are then deter­mined for ser­vice­mem­bers in each pay grade, with and with­out depen­dent fam­i­ly mem­bers. The depart­ment will pay its more than 1 mil­lion active-duty ser­vice­mem­bers an esti­mat­ed $19 bil­lion in hous­ing allowance over 2011.

Jer­i­lyn Busch, direc­tor of mil­i­tary com­pen­sa­tion, said ser­vice­mem­bers also will see an increase in pay and sub­sis­tence allowances in Jan­u­ary. A 1.4 per­cent basic pay raise takes effect Jan. 1 by oper­a­tion of law, and it reflects the change in the employ­ment cost index, she said. That raise will be in effect until Con­gress pass­es the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act, which cur­rent­ly con­tains a 1.9 per­cent pay raise. But the final raise mil­i­tary mem­bers receive will be in accor­dance with the defense autho­riza­tion act as signed by the pres­i­dent, Busch said.

The basic allowance for sub­sis­tence in 2011 will increase 0.36 per­cent, Busch said. The new rates will be $223.04 for offi­cers and $323.87 for enlist­ed ser­vice­mem­bers.

Since 2002, defense offi­cials said, mil­i­tary pay has risen 42 per­cent, hous­ing allowances have risen 83 per­cent, and the sub­sis­tence allowance has risen 40 per­cent. By com­par­i­son, pri­vate-sec­tor salaries have risen 32 per­cent over that time, offi­cials said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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