Base housing, you either love it or hate it. When orders arrive one of the first things we do as military spouses is check out the housing website. Is it new, old, on base, off base, what is the BAH, and will they let me bring my doberman? Housing all over the United States is being privatized and remodeled at a furious pace. On some bases the quality of military housing far exceeds the housing available in the local economy, while other housing should be bulldozed.
Priced at your BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). When you sign a lease to move into a military home you agree to pay your entire housing allowance to the housing office. This price pays your rent, utilities, and in some cases your yard maintenance. There are very few financial surprises when you live on base.
Safety of living on base. Many housing areas are located on the military installation, which means you have 24/7 security.
Amenities. Many of the bases have pools, playgrounds, and gyms that are available for you to use for free as a perk for living on base.
Larger Housing. Some of the new housing is quite large and many junior enlisted families are getting much more out of their BAH than they would if they lived off base.
Pets Allowed. Most bases allow pets in housing without a pet deposit. Certain breeds of dogs are forbidden on many bases.
Community Feel. When you live on base you are surrounded by people who are in the your exact same situation. Many families are dealing with deployments, shift work, and watches. I have found that people are quick to befriend their neighbors because everyone has moved many times before.
Close proximity to work. If you are living on base, chances are pretty good you are living close to work as well. This could eliminate the need for a second car if the active duty member is able to bike or walk to work.
Close proximity to Commissary. Many times the commissary will be within walking distance from housing. With the cost of gas fluctuating it is nice to be within a mile of two of a inexpensive grocery store.
Housing is based on rank and number of children. If you are a lower rank but you have a lot of kids, you will get a larger home, regardless of your BAH. This means an E-3 with 4 kids will be living in a 4 or 5 bedroom home, even though they could probably only afford a 2 bedroom apartment on the economy.
Utility Billing in some areas. Many bases that have been privatized are now monitoring and charging for utilities if you exceed the average use of like homes. So, if you are a utility hog you will be paying out of pocket for your utilities. But if you conserve, you will be refunded the difference each month.
False Sense of Security. Yes, the fact that you are living within the confines of the gate does keep certain people off base. But, there are many creeps and thieves that live in your neighborhoods. There is crime on military bases and people should use the same caution they would use out in town.
Small/ Old Outdated Housing. Even though many bases have privatized their housing, there are still many bases with substandard units. It takes time to remodel houses, so it is possible you could get stuck in a small, old house.
Housing Office. Usually there is only one housing office, so if you are having trouble, you don’t have many other options.
Same old, same old. Base housing usually isn’t very pretty. The materials used are usually cheaper and everyone’s house looks exactly the same, at least on the outside.
Lack of storage. This is hit or miss, I have lived in houses with a tremendous amount of storage and others were we were getting rid of things left and right in order to fit into the house. Many older homes do not have basements, attics, or garages.
Difficult for nonmilitary friends to visit. I always felt bad that our friends had to get out of their vehicles and were subjected to searches, in order to visit us. It made our house a less than ideal place for events and parties.
Sometimes base housing is ugly, really ugly.
In the end living on base is a personal decision that depends heavily on your personal circumstances. With the recent down turn in the economy it is sometimes a better deal to live off base. We were able to find a house significantly bigger than our base house for less than our BAH. In other places, the cost of living is extremely high and living on base allows people to stay within their budget.
I do recommend that junior enlisted families live on base if the housing is adequate. Income is limited and living on base helps control fluctuating expenses such as utilities, that can bust a budget in a colder than normal winter.
What has been your base housing experience, good, bad or just plain ugly?