2023 military basic allowance for housing rates are out! Go see!
(iPhone users reading this on Facebook, you may need to open this page using the three dots instead of clicking through from Facebook. Not on an iPhone? Right-click, select “copy link address,” and put it into a new tab. I wish I could fix it but it seems to be either a Facebook issue or a DoD issue…)
Many areas have big increases, but there are always a few places where rates go down. So there’s some important to stuff to know about that.
Related: Five Things To Know About The New BAH Rates
BAH Rate Protection
The most important thing up front: Thanks to BAH rate protection, or the “grandfather clause,” you almost never lose money. As long as you stay in the same area, the only way your rate goes down is if you are demoted or have a change in dependency status.
If BAH rates fall in your area, you are grandfathered into the higher rate as long as you remain in the same geographic area.
Where Do These BAH Rates Come From?
BAH is designed to partially compensate military members for the cost of maintaining a home in lieu of living in military housing. Under the current formula, BAH is designed to cover 95% of rental costs for a house size tied to your pay grade, and average utility costs for that house.
The rates are calculated through a data- and math-intensive process. A contractor works with local installation housing offices to identify where people can reasonably live. These areas must be within a reasonable driving distance and must be safe. Then they pull together rental information, and use government data to calculate the cost of utilities.
Sometimes, the numbers that the data produces seem to make no sense, and seem either way too high or way too low for what it costs to live in that area. There are a couple of different reasons why that happens. Sometimes, the market is changing rapidly, and the process of determining BAH rates can’t keep up. Certainly, a geographic area may have widely varying housing costs. I’m sure sometimes there are just errors. And keep in mind that BAH rates are based on renting, not buying.
Housing Sizes and Types
In digging down, though, what I often find is that many families are choosing to live in a house of a larger or different style than the house that their BAH is based. Heck, we do…we almost always have. Only once did we live in a house of the size & type for my husband’s pay grade. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The beauty of BAH is that you get to choose your housing. But that choice is often the reason for the discrepancy between the BAH rate and the actual cost of housing.
Please leave me a comment telling me whether your BAH went up (or the rate went down but you’ll get the old rate.) And I’d love to know how rates feel for the area in which you live, based upon the size house you have chosen. I’m really curious to hear folks’ experiences.
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Ours went up $18 to $1800 for E7 in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
I think that’s very reasonable. We have a 4BR 2500sf home in an older neighborhood and that amount covers our mortgage+escrow, electric, and water.
Kate Horrell says
That’s awesome, Michelle…I love it when you can cover expenses with your BAH. And I love older neighborhoods!
Krizia Anderson says
We are moving this month to Washington state. My husband is an O2, and we were going to get $1936 and now we are getting $2091. Unfortunately you can only rent a small, not updated house for $1850 and above. I am livid! The cost of housing there doesn’t not match in anyway the BAH. So I guess all utilities, which will probably be around $300-$400, will come out of our pay check. In addition to that, the wait list for military housing is a year and a half. We had the same issue when we got to San Diego, but after living in a tiny apartment that took all his O1 BAH, for about 8 months, we moved into military housing, because the BAH here also doesn’t match the real cost of renting a home.
Kate Horrell says
O-2 housing allowance is tied to the costs of an “average” 2 bedroom townhouse and a three bedroom townhouse (it’s 98% between the two, so almost to the cost of a 3 bedroom townhouse), and it is designed to cover 95% of the costs. Depending on where you are in Washington, things are definitely tight.
Hubby is an 05. DC area went down from $3216 to $3144. It’s super expensive in this are, so glad we’re grandfathered in!
We went down here too. Luckily, we came in 2017 so we have $3256. I don’t know how people coming in will find much for the $3,144. If you make rank here it doesn’t help either because 0-6 is lower than the last 4 years so… We are about to have the Amazon headquarters suck down even more housing here.
That’s crazy! We live in Jax, E7 with dependents and it is below 1800 a month. How did you get $1800?
I feel that the prices should be based on both a Morgage and rent formula rather than just rent. It’s common to say that pouring money into rentals during a career will do nothing for you investment wise. military service members need assets and the opportunity to obtain assets. My bah went up $30 dollars when the inflation is over 6% . My housing market (temecula Ca) went up over 20% since 2020. The bah system is inaccurate and down right horrible for military.
Kate Horrell says
I disagree, for two reasons.
First, it’s absolutely false that “pouring money into rentals” is a bad thing. While you can find examples to prove any point, the average home purchase doesn’t make financial sense until it has been owned for 5ish years. Some military families make money with homeownership, but many lose money. And when things go wrong, the emotional and economic strain impacts readiness.
Second, BAH is not meant to cover your expenses, particularly as they are related to your choices. BAH simply provides a set sum of money that is tied to rank and location. What you choose to do with that money is 100% your choice. You can rent or buy something roughly in the range of BAH, you can buy or rent something much larger or smaller, or you can bet it all on red and live in your car. There has to be a single system for determining that set sum of money, and it is based on renting. It just is…
I get this comment ,but also in places like Washington where a studio can easily be 1500 yet bah is 1400 something for e5 and below, its not feasable to live with a family in a studio.
Bah states its supposed to cover like 85 percent of expense, base housing has a waitlist of almost 6 plus months, so your forced to live in places that are so expensive regardless if its a rental or owned. So in some places, its no problem, other places ,you struggle to get by
Kate Horrell says
Oh, where in Washington is an E-5 with dependents getting 1400 a month? I seem to have missed that.
It is supposed to cover 95% of expenses for a set size housing based on rank and family size. An E-5 with dependents is based on a 2 bedroom townhouse.
It won’t let me respond to your response 😅 it was below 1500 last year i guess its finally pushed over the 1500 threshold. But even if it is 95 percent, here in whidbey area 2 bedrooms are well over that unless you want to live in an extreme fixer. We managed to buy before a major rise happened, most places around here that are worth living in are 1800 to 2000 not including any living expenses, its funny though because everett bah is way higher, while the cost of rentals are not all that different, but i can see why that is because there are a ton of downright dumps for rent for around 1200 to 1500
Yeah I understand that I get to manage the BAH in which I am already living under my means and drive 45 min to work each day to live in a much cheaper areas not associated with my BAH. So… telling me to make a good decisions when managing how I use my bah is not the issue . The issue is the housing market and inflation are well about 6% which is factual based evidence and doesn’t justify getting a $30 raise. To be honest is a pay cut because it doesn’t align with inflation. I’ve been in for 16 years and and currently a WO so I know how the bah works based on experience. I also Agree with the the people on here that stated they can’t afford a place near there duty so they are forced to live in rough areas which add long commutes to and from work which is unfortunate and not takin into account by the DOD. Hopefully the DOD can bring reform to the policies to come.
We are in Jax FL and our rate went down. Yes we will keep our old rate, but to live in anywhere with good schools that rate will not suffice! :-/
Our rate here in Virginia Beach ‘dropped’ over $100.
We PCS to Jacksonville this spring and my husband’s rank lost $90 there from 2019. I’m from that area and agree with the previous poster, I think the #s there are low. The search for schools drive many families to outlying counties, where homes are more expensive.
Crazy, wa state is extremely expensive to live in, yet the bah is only enough to cover a extremely tiny place or a run down place. I currently live in FL, and the cost of living is way less than in waahington ,yet the bah is over 200 less. This is whidbey island I’m mentioning anyway, if your stationed in everett (less than an hour away) you get way more money, though the cost of living maybe differs by 100 at best. To help cover Bill’s I’m going to have to work, but then I have to pay for childcare which will almost negate my wages. Annoying.
@Ts, you’re right! We’re on Whidbey now and we can’t believe they haven’t classified us as a housing crisis. Everett and Bremerton get almost $500 more, probably because they’re closer to Seattle. Unfortunately, being on an island it’s hard to get utilities and therefore more expensive for those. Our taxes seem very high based on what I’ve heard but we (like SO many people here) have pretty much no option but base housing. There are plans for more private housing but those will take years and most will be unaffordable for enlisted, they also have plans for more base housing but haven’t begun. Pretty clear there is a demand here, oh, and the base is adding a TON more people by 2022 so get into housing while you can. We will thankfully be gone before that storm arrives. Never had a BAH problem in CT, GA, or VA. This market is crazy- E-5 BAH went down for 2020 and everyone is losing their minds! Good luck!
I just got selected for orders to whidbey. I go beginning of 2021. I am E5 divorced. I own a home here in Jax. So i am moving a 4/2 but trying to downsize enough for a 2bedroom. My options for housing decreases significantly because i have a large pitbull. I am stressed over this to the point i have considered not reenlisting (have not yet). But i have no degree or back up plan and i want my retirement. I will only get 1260 and the minimum rent i have seen is 1600 and that is no pets allowed. I am looking to buy to save the hassle with my dog and cat but there is almost nothing available to buy that the VA will approve until i spend 350k or more. How has the navy not fixed this issue in the last 4 years the base grew… i am seriously stressing so bad.
Hi Kate! As a single parent working at the Pentagon I cannot afford to have a 20+ Commute so living near work is best for my family. I am an E7 living in a one bedroom apartment and I am still $700 over my BAH. Not to mention that I pay nannies since the military does not provide non standard hours child care.
Looks like ours will go up a few dollars from last year’s rate. We are heading to FL from Korea, and at this point, Im just glad to be done with OHA and our current fluctuating rent of about $3200/mo. in Seoul. We’ve been fortunate to always find a decent home because we are only a family of two and dont have the space and school zone requirements of larger families, so Im hopeful about what we’ll find in Florida.
Ours is going up $30. For this area, it does not make sense. The quality of home compared to rental rates and living in a safe area do not make sense. When we first came here, finding a place to live in our budget was impossible. Sever homes were in very poor condition and/or in an unsafe area (shootings daily). Living further away from base was a possibility, but then the gas cost driving back a forth to post plus time away from the family when they are already gone a lot as it is wasn’t forth it. Also, forget if you moving during PCS season where a place is gone before you even get a chance to look at it or get your application in. We ended up having to go above our BAH And then pay utilities on top of that. On base housing can take months to get in to and has major mold and structural issues.
Yes this! We are moving during pcs season. The base we are going to next year went down $90. We also have been told it can take 3 months to get into on base housing. Housing that we have been told has many many issues. Currently we live in a place that is falling apart. The carpet is old, the flooring is peeling up which contain asbestos under it, the bathrooms have mold growing and on our curtains in our bedroom. If they are going to change rates they should also increase livability on the on base housing.
Mine is going up $183 a month, in Colorado, where housing prices have skyrocketed in the 3 years I’ve been stationed here. Hopefully this will help me get a good rent price as I turn my home into a rental and head overseas to deal with OHA.
My husbands rank went up by 198 here in CO! As long as it doesn’t go down too much in the next 2 years we should be good to rent our house out. So happy with the extra money but a little curious how it ended up being such a big increase.
I’m in North Carolina and E7 – E9 went up more than that in the Fort Bragg area.
We are moving next year and the area we are going to move went down $90. That’s a huge decrease. This only allows us to move on post in a school district we are unhappy with putting our kids in. This is not a livable rate. I do not think areas took utility expenses I to consideration. We would have to find a 3 bedroom home that is $900 a month max. That barely covers an apartment.
Elizabeth Zimmermann says
Ours has gone down $400 in the last 2 years which is INSANE.
We are attached to the Rock Island Arsenal. Husband is an E7. We pay $2000 for a 3 bedroom 1800 square foot house. That’s already $100 over our BAH.
Your choices here are live in Illinois or Davenport with horrible schools or live in Bettendorf where you can’t afford to feed your kids, but they get to have an education.
I’m not asking for a brand new house. I’m not even asking for a big one. I like our house. It’s just the right size for our family.
But it would be nice to be able to AFFORD to live in a safe neighborhood with good schools. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
We just left there in 2018, and my husband was an E5. BAH was about $1500. We had a 3 bedroom in Rock Island…one bathroom…for 6 ppl. We lucked out though and our kids went to Eugene Field. I originally wanted Bettendorf or PV but realized we were going to have to sacrifice space or education. Originally lived on base until we had to move so they could rebuild. But even on base takes you to an underperforming school. I definitely understand your frustration.
We live in the DC area and ours is slightly lower than when we moved here 2 years ago. We live in a house with 1 bedroom more than the house size tied to our rank, and we are modestly below BAH with rent alone, but slightly above it with utilities added. We have been lucky to PCS during off-peak times for the past several moves.
I’m a contrarian and think that BAH is too high in this area. Housing and rental prices are boosted by insane BAH rates, so reining them in is a good idea. It’s not reasonable to spend $36K/year on rent or mortgage.
Kate Horrell says
This is an interesting question. I agree that in many places, market rents are boosted by BAH rates, but I’m not sure that is the case in DC. There are 6.2 million people in the DC metro area. Those are individuals, not families, but let’s just guess an average of 3 people per household – that’s over 2 million households. Per the DoD, there are only around 10,000 active duty folks stationed in the DC area, and a total of 27,000 DoD folks including AD, reserve and civilian employees. Even if we count the reserves and civilians, who aren’t getting housing allowances, DoD employees only make up less than 1.5% of the population. If you only count the people who are actually getting BAH, it’s around 1/2 of a percent of the population. That hardly seems like enough to push rents higher in the whole region.
There are absolutely pockets that are heavily populated by military, but the studies look at the metropolitan area as a whole, and it doesn’t pass the logic test that the housing costs of 6.2 million people are being driven by the 10,000 people receiving military housing allowances.
Numbers rounded, obviously.
We are in northern VA and the rate went down but thankfully we are grandfathered in. I feel bad for the parents with children who have to also pay for childcare. Amazon moving into Arlington has driven our rent up and the cost of living is horrendous here.
We are pcsing from Phoenix to Nashville. Both places have a good drop in bah rates and cost of housing in both places is on the up and up. Disappointing, especially considering we have a large family of 7, we are moving to a 4 bedroom home and my husband will commute an hour and our mortgage is still higher than bah.
Hey Kate! Here in NoVA ours is going down $82. Thank goodness for grandfathering!
Went down for the 2nd year in a row for us at this duty station. Which to me is crazy because our house is smaller, older, and more outdated than what we could live in on base if we were willing to do the waitlist. Frustrating since we come out of pocket for rent not even including utitlities. But it is what it is and we knew it when we signed the lease!
We’re in Seattle Metro and ours is dropping nearly $200, but it looks like JBLM is going up (which is fantastic for them and much needed).
Glad to be grandfathered in, not looking forward to potential rank changes and losing BAH though since E7 is lower than current E6.
Kate Horrell says
BAH rate protection covers promotions, too…you’ll get the higher of your pre-promotion rate (grandfathered or not) or the current rate for the new rank. The only time you lose due to rank is if you are demoted!
Our BAH went down $201 in Tampa
Kate Horrell says
Wow! Thank goodness for that grandfathering!
Philadelphia area (considering w/dep pay grades E3-E9, W2-W4, and O1-O6) – six pay grades see decreases, one sees no change, and nine see increases. Highest increase is +96 with highest decrease -93
Seems inconsistent when evaluating a housing market to have simultaneous decreases and increases.
Currently rate protected at what feels to be an appropriate amount but feel for incoming personnel.
Kate Horrell says
It’s not uncommon for a certain sector of the housing market to have increases while a different sector has decreases – for example, during a depression, the cost of less expensive housing usually goes up (more demand) while more expensive housing loses value (less demand.) Even within broad categories, prices can change due to things like development (a lot of townhouse building will decrease the prices for ranks that are tied to townhouses), certain areas being placed off limits (for example, if a large apartment complex near base starts having unacceptable levels of crime.) There’s so much that goes into it!
I’ve always looked at BAH as part of my income. In San Francisco it is almost $6000 per month, and there is also CONUS COLA in SF to add to that.
We’re in Hampton Roads and ours went up $105. That definitely doesn’t match the crazy inflated rent prices this area is experiencing, but hey, at least it’s an increase! (We’ve been living off an older grandfather rate). For the first time ever we will be spending significantly over our BAH for rent and utilities. We usually try to stay within a couple of hundred dollars and use our cash for other things. I realize times are “not normal” and we’ve been extremely lucky to be able to at least not have a drop, so we’ll suck it up as part of the ebb and flow.
Go figure the DOD says a 3 BDSFH rental in the DC metro/ Fairfax county costs $100+ less this year while a 4 bedroom costs $350 more. Going off the W3 vs 05 rates. Our BAH went up $36 dollars while rent in our area is up 10%, thank god we signed a multiyear lease with small increases ($50 a month) each year. I cannot imagine trying to find a 3 bedroom house for under $2700 in Fairfax County right now. Utilities are what really get you in Fairfax they run about $300 a month. I guess an hour commute From Prince William or further could be factored into prices but i am not sure what the DoD Considers a commuting area.
Still Glad to have the tax free housing/Utilities allowance. just the math seems so odd and arbitrary to not be believed.
In Great Lakes and O5 with dependents is going down $207. Meanwhile, our landlord is raising our rent by 10% with our new lease.
C Smith says
I just check my first 2022 LES and my BAH went down. I was not grandfathered in. What should I do? I’m on orders and have not relocated or made any changes.
Kate Horrell says
C Smith – how did you access your LES? They aren’t released until the 22nd of January.