What do you need to know about military housing? If you are new to military culture as a new recruit, just-married family member, or as a member of a military family (you’ll get used to being called a “dependent” over time) military housing can seem like a lot of paperwork and red tape, but believe it or not there actually is a method to the madness.
Military Housing 101
What is military housing? Essentially any government-owned quarters provided for single or married people serving in uniform (or in the case of overseas bases this can include those working at a base in a civilian capacity).
Military housing can be broken down into a variety of categories including:
- Temporary lodging (TLF)
- Base housing for married service members
- Single/Unaccompanied housing (often barracks or dorms)
- Housing for civilians (usually overseas)
Those who stay in government housing may or may not be paid housing allowances.
These allowances can be a bit complicated in that for bases that have privatized housing options (where the base and a private rental agency have partnered to offer housing options to service members and their families) as you may be paid a housing allowance that goes to the private provider.
If you live off base “on the economy” you will be given a housing allowance depending on whether you are authorized to live off base and set according to local limits.
Housing allowances do not necessarily cover all expenses–this is a military allowance meant to offset the cost of living off post rather than completely subsidize it.
Those living overseas may draw (depending on location) both a housing allowance and a cost-of-living allowance to offset the expense of living in a higher-priced community.
Many military bases have temporary lodging facilities (also known as TLF) used to provide a place for those visiting the base on TDY orders and for those relocating there on Permanent Change of Station orders. Not every base has TLF, and not every base that has TLF has the space to accommodate all comers.
That is why, when the temporary lodging facility is full, you may be given a statement of non-availability (of government quarters) and be sent to an off-base facility, commercial hotel or equivalent. This is an acknowledgement that the service member could not access on-post facilities at the time of need.
The non-availability statement is crucial for getting reimbursed for your off-base lodging expenses in such cases. You must file that statement with your travel voucher.
If you need to know whether a base has TLF, contact that base by DSN or commercial telephone and ask for the temporary lodging facility or equivalent. Some facilities take advance reservations, others cannot due to mission needs, demand, and other variables.
Unaccompanied service members who are PCSing to a new base may or may not be required to live in dorms or barracks. Much of this requirement depends on rank, time in service, and other variables.
In general, first-term military members who are on their first duty assignment and are not married should expect to live in barracks or dorms for at least part of their early experience in the military.
For those who are married, much depends on whether you are being assigned stateside or overseas. This is primarily because those who are assigned overseas may or may not be permitted to bring their families with them.
Those who are allowed may, depending on a variety of factors, be able to bring their families with them or send for them when housing has become available.
Those assigned to an “accompanied tour” or allowed to bring their families sometimes find that they must relocate to the overseas base first and sit out a housing waiting list before the family can be reunited in the overseas duty location.
Government housing on base is provided for as many families as the housing office can handle; in countries like Japan and Germany off-base living is typical depending on your rank and time in service.
In overseas duty locations, there are plenty of civilian employees who work for the base. While many may be American, not all are–host nationals are also hired but these men and women generally live in the community and not on base.
Not so for Americans who relocated to an overseas base to work as a contractor, as an MWR employee, civil service employee, etc.
These people will generally be offered some form of a housing arrangement that may include living on base or being provided assistance in living in an off base home or apartment.
Living Off Base
But off-base living is NOT government housing. It is a partnership between the base and local providers. The houses you rent in Germany or Japan are not owned by the U.S. government and you will find that the requirements of living off-post are similar to living in stateside communities.
You will be required to pay rent, utilities, and possibly even pay for things that people stationed in America never have to worry about. For example, if you live off-base in Britain (at a base like RAF Feltwell, for example) you may have to pay a tax on your television.
The TV license tax is approximately $200 per year there.
Off base living requires you in many cases to personally interact with your landlord, utility providers, etc. Language and culture barriers can make this complicated but your sponsor can help you navigate these issues on the strength of the personal experiences of both sponsor and co-workers.
Military Housing Resources
Have you been given PCS orders to a base in a new duty location? If you are concerned about your military housing options the first thing you should do is to contact the gaining base’s Housing Office to learn what you need to do to sign up for on-base housing wait lists and other procedures.
If you prefer to live in the community and do not want to be considered for on-post government housing, you may have the option to do so. But there’s a caveat.
The Base Housing Office: An Important Appointment
Many gaining commands advise their newcomers they should NOT enter into any legally binding agreements for housing until formally checking in with the base housing office as a new arrival needing a place to live. This may be due to unique issues in the local area, a need to advise newcomers about potential resources or pitfalls to renting in the area, and other things.
Those PCSing overseas will need to coordinate with the gaining command and that base housing office to determine what types of military housing might be available when you arrive, get on waiting lists, etc.
Base Relocation Assistance Programs
Most bases have some kind of relocation assistance, often presented as part of a family readiness program.
You can get information about these from Family Support Centers, Soldier Support Centers, First Sergeants, Command Sergeant Majors, etc. Each branch of the military has its own relocation assistance programs and outreach. (The link takes you to the Navy’s version).
You can also use the resource Homes.mil which was created especially for military people who need to find housing. This resource includes bases overseas, so it’s definitely more authoritative in some ways than if it provided stateside information only.
All who PCS to a new duty location should be assigned a sponsor or be given a contact number for someone at your gaining command who can assist with issues related to PCSing including housing questions. It pays to rely on your sponsor for this information as early as you can in the process.
The more you know before you pack up and move to the new assignment, the smoother your move can go.