Within the Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget, the Department of Defense has outlined plans to improve military base housing. This aspect is among others being discussed as part of preparing military installations for every side of readiness. In fact, per the DOD News release, the $1.4 billion is requested within the Defense Budget is funding is for “construction, operation, and maintenance of the DOD’s worldwide non-privatized family housing inventory, which includes more than 34,000 government owned and 5,800 leased units.” Eight unaccompanied housing projects are also included in the request for funding.
Among military families, military housing on installation is a hot topic. Since housing was privatized, and no longer in control of the military service branches, there have been a series of issues made public including mold, flooding and unsafe hazards. These reports have become public through news or lawsuits. This shapes opinions of the military forces on military housing.
Why Military Housing?
For some, military housing is a must because there is a built-in community. Everyone in an on base community is military, theoretically, and therefore understands that ins and outs. If you mention the word deployment or duty, they understand what that means and entails and may be able to help with resources or knowledge to make it a bit easier. Part of that community is also for children – it is not a simple process to up and move and make new friends, and it is the same for children, but having parks in every neighborhood as a meet up spot makes building friendship a bit easier.
There are other perks of a neighborhood or community pool in addition to parks, tot lots and dog parks. The proximity to the base perks of military commissary and exchange add to the ease of life, and may even be within biking distance on some bases.
Affordable housing is not always easy to find, area dependent. On-installation housing provides a known entity and a way to reach out to people in the neighborhood for home layouts and to temper expectations. The community has a way to help each other out making on installation housing a comfort for some. Sometimes it is the only practical option available.
Maybe not military housing?
With the community that military housing provides, there is also the concern of safety for some. Previous experience with mold triggering asthma in one base, leads to distrust for any privatized housing company. While many serving in the military now were not around when the service branches were in charge of housing for comparison, privatized housing agencies are not often seen as honest or caring about the person. This lack of trust and perceived lack of safety measures has led to a distrust for all housing on installation in some, and therefore not willing to live on base.
Not all bases are created equal. Some bases have parks in every neighborhood, and some do not. Some are dog friendly and some do not allow any cats. It’s not similar across the board and that is a point of contention for some families.
Another concern for some families is the lack of similarity in terms of home size. Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) is based on rank, and is the same for the rank with dependents. Families with larger and smaller sized families may all be in the same sized homes, or different sized homes, but all pay the same price. It might be frustrating to forfeit the same BAH for a smaller house than others in the same grade because of the timing when you arrive.
What’s in a budget?
While the defense budget proposal does not specifically support the privatized housing agencies, the DOD does construct, operate and maintain military barracks/dormitories (depending on military service branch) and there is non-privatized housing available worldwide. In order to meet the demand for safe housing, funds must be procured. This includes removing Polyfluroalkyl substances from water sources at numerous military bases across the United States. In comparison to previous years requests for funding, there is a request of $50 million more for housing efforts as compared to the budget request 2 years prior.
Will this effort to renew some of the housing be met with positive outcomes? It is to be determined based on the actual outcome. This is a proposed budget, not approved budget. Oftentimes, efforts for non-force components are cut or cut down in budget reviews. The reality is that housing has a direct effect on readiness and if this can be demonstrated and shared, perhaps the budget will reflect these changes.
The entire defense budget request can be found here including the budget briefing and any associated press releases.