Most soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield will see an average 5 percent increase in their basic housing allowance, according to Chris Curry, housing chief for Stewart-Hunter’s Directorate of Public Works.
“Basic allowance for housing is a U.S.-based allowance that provides uniformed service members equitable housing compensation based on housing costs in local housing markets when government quarters are not provided,” Curry said. “BAH rates are based on local area rental market data and vary by geographic duty station, pay grade and dependency status. The cost of utilities and renters’ insurance is also considered. BAH is based only on rental properties, not homeownership costs like mortgage payments and property taxes.”
Curry said the Department of Defense’s goal is to provide servicemembers with a housing allowance that enables them to find housing within a reasonable distance from their installation. He said a soldier may choose to use all of his or her housing allowance to rent a more expensive house closer to Fort Stewart or Hunter, or choose a less expensive house that would require a longer commute.
He said BAH also includes rate protection. Curry said if a soldier’s new BAH is less than the previous year’s, he is allowed to continue receiving the previous rate as long as there has been no change in his duty location, rank or status of his dependents. He said this protects soldiers, who have long-term leases, from paying out of pocket if an area’s housing costs decrease.
Curry said if the soldier’s BAH goes up, he will receive the higher BAH, if there is no change in location, rank or dependents’ status.
“All ranks (at Stewart) received an increase average of 8-10 percent),” Curry said. “All but three ranks (at Hunter) received an increase average of 3-5 percent.”
He said the BAH rate for lieutenant colonels and above stationed at Hunter decreased by an average 6 percent.
“The decrease in BAH for Hunter’s senior officers (with dependents) was directly associated with the location of (their) duty station,” he said. “Rental rates in Savannah have gotten lower for (lieutenant colonels and above) and some have increased. We submit an annual report to (Department of the Army) on rental rates for DA/DoD determined housing standards for specific ranks. For a (O-5 to O-7) the housing standard is a 4-bedroom single family house. The average rent in 2013 for that size home in Savannah decreased $150 a month from 2012 ($1,750 to $1,600).”
Curry added there has been no decision by the Army about reducing BAH rates as part of budget cutbacks. He said a commission has been formed that will examine compensation and entitlements with the DoD, including BAH.