RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Housing allowances for military members will go up an average of 6.9 percent in 2009, Defense Department officials announced Monday.
The increase comes to an average of about $95 per month across the board for the 950,000 servicemembers expected to draw basic allowance for housing, or BAH, in 2009, but some servicemembers will not see any increase at all, and others will see less than that the average increase, said Susan Brumbaugh, director of the Defense Department's BAH program.
"We did see some decreases in some areas for some pay grades," Ms. Brumbaugh said, "[but] it's not across the broad spectrum. We also saw some significant increases across the board, so it's a balance.
"In some years, you'll have a rental market that is very strong in some areas," she explained, "and in others areas, you'll have local rental markets where there's not a lot of housing available. So it changes. It can fluctuate from year to year and this was a very typical year."
The good thing for those already at Randolph is the fact that they won't see their rates decrease; only those PCSing to Randolph after Jan. 1, 2009, will receive the lower rate, said 2nd Lt. Craig Poirier, 12th Comptroller Squadron financial services officer.
Members living in base housing don't have to worry about changing their allotment. According to Lieutenant Poirier, the system will update itself.
Ms. Brumbaugh said an individual rate protection law is in place to protect those who already are under a rental agreement prior to Jan. 1, 2009.
The local market economy serves as the basis for BAH rate changes. Military housing officials from each installation
begin collecting data from the local rental market as early as January each year. They research the current rates for all the different standards and profiles for homes, Ms. Brumbaugh explained.
Typically, rates are higher in larger, more heavily populated metropolitan areas, such as New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Rates in rural areas usually are more stable, and although they may increase to some degree, the rise doesn't have the same impact as in larger cities, she said.
"The military housing offices are looking at adequate and appropriate dwellings we would want our military families living in," she said. "They don't look at a small, two-bedroom house and say, 'We could put an E-5 with a family in that.' They look at it as something that would be appropriate for that particular profile."
The BAH program is designed to benefit servicemembers, but it's not designed to pay 100 percent of their housing expenses, Ms. Brumbaugh said. Although she's never met someone who is pleased with his or her BAH rates, she said, the program is very well designed, and once they understand the rate-setting process, they're fairly satisfied.
"The entitlement is a wonderful entitlement," she said. "[The Defense Department] bends over backward to make sure that if there is any change at all, it's for the benefit of the member."