Living on a military base is a benefit available for all active-duty service members and their dependents. The choice to live on base depends on the service members’ situation, and other factors like length of commute, cost of living, local support, and general safety and security.
As part of the DOD housing privatization initiative, many homes on military bases are now professionally managed. Factors like updates, cleanliness and safety should be taken into consideration, given the recent military housing crisis across the nation.
Who can live on a military base?
Overall, military members stationed within the Continental United States (CONUS) are authorized to live in government housing based on certain factors like pay grade and availability. In some locations, civilians and members of the general public are also able to lease homes inside of military housing areas.
Often this happens if a local base housing company cannot find enough eligible service members or families to live in base housing. At that point, they may fill those spots with other tenants such as civilians. The following groups can apply for base housing:
- Active duty military and families.
- National Guard and Reserve military and families.
- Federal civil service employees.
- Retired military and federal civil service.
- DOD contractors.
- The general public.
While active members always have priority, they also have a hierarchy. Active duty military applicants are prioritized in this way:
- Single enlisted members
- Single junior officers
- Married enlisted service members
- Married officers
Military who are stationed Outside of the Continental United States (OCONUS) or overseas may or may not be authorized to have their family members reside with them. Each particular unit has the power to approve this, based on many factors. OCONUS authorization of family members is as follows:
- Higher ranking officers and senior enlisted members, E-7 and up.
- Lower ranking enlisted will need permission from their units.
- Single members are assigned to live in base housing.
- Single officers and senior enlisted members.
Members who have dependents may have the option of living on-base in military family housing without charge, or off-base and receive a monthly housing allowance or BAH.
While stationed at some bases, members may not have a choice and may be required by local regulation to live on-base. Service members assigned to locations where dependents are not allowed to travel at government expense, including basic training, or some unaccompanied overseas assignments, can live in the barracks for free, and continue to receive the housing allowance to provide a household.
To live in military family housing, the service member must be living in the house with a dependent or dependents. However, if the service member is divorced or unmarried and have physical custody of a child or children for at least half of the year, the service member would qualify for family housing. If the service member is married and there is a separation, the service member must terminate their family housing within 60 days. Additionally, if the service member moves out, the spouse and family will lose the military housing entitlement as well.
On-base family housing is not universal in quality. Many bases have outstanding family housing. However, some bases have on-base housing that is badly in need of renovation or replacement.
Another con may be that on-base family housing is not often inspected unless there is a complaint, or until service members move out. However, on many bases, the housing office may conduct inspections to make sure everything is up to expectations. If not, they may issue a “ticket.” If the service member receives too many “tickets” in a designated time, they can be forced to move out of on-base family housing.
When service members do live on-base, they are closer to support services, including the base exchange, commissary, youth center, and childcare centers. Many service members like that all their neighbors will be service members. Others, however, may want to live among civilians and forget the military when they’re not on duty. Some bases may have schools right on the base which can be either DOD-operated schools, or part of the local school district, while other stations may have to bus or drive children to an off-base school.
There are many pros and cons to on-base housing, but no matter what service members must always meet the eligibility requirements to get on-base accommodations.