Is Skyrocketing Rent Hurting Military Families?

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Military families don’t get a choice as to where they move. When they have a PCS (permanent change of station), they’re assigned based on the needs of the mission. Some families may have to move clear across the country – and they depend on base housing or their BAH (housing allowance) to ensure that they have a place to live.

There’s just one problem. Skyrocketing rent is making it harder for military families to get settled once the military decides that it’s time for a move.

Kristin Martin is a military wife who found out that her husband was being transferred to a naval base in San Diego, California. It was her mission to secure housing for their family of five.

Base housing wasn’t an option. The waitlist for a four-bedroom home was 14 to 16 months long. Unfortunately, this is the case across many military bases. The demand for base housing is strong – and families end up waiting for months to be able to get a house.

Since military families can’t depend on base housing, they have to look into the community. And many have to rely on their BAH to determine how much they can afford to pay per month.

Martin looked at military-only hotels near the base. Unfortunately, all of them were full.

She had to get creative – and she ended up turning the search for a home into a full-time job. “I was waking up and the first thing I was doing was looking at properties.”

She spent hundreds of dollars submitting application fees. Over 30 applications were submitted before she finally found a home for her family.

There were some problems along the way. They had to start paying rent before they were even ready to move. And the cost of the new home was $4200/month — $700 more than the BAH her husband, a lieutenant, earns on a monthly basis.

Not all military families have the finances that the Martins have. Some can’t spend hundreds on application fees. And many are incapable of paying that much above and beyond the BAH that comes in every month.

Martin shared the real financial impact. She knows that her husband is likely to be stationed in San Diego for at least two or three years. “That could be $20,000 that we’re paying out of pocket above BAH just for rent.”

Martin is aware that it’s a financial burden – and one that many families cannot accept. She reminisces about being a junior enlisted family once. Those families are more likely to struggle.

Housing has been a significant benefit to servicemembers for decades. It is what allows many families to stay in the military and deal with the moves that are likely to happen every two to four years, depending on the branch of service and the position that the enlisted member has.

As Newsbreak comments, “The Department of Defense has neglected its commitment to help military families find affordable places to live.”

There are a few ways to deal with the problem, though none are particularly beneficial. Families can settle for substandard homes, such as ones that are in bad neighborhoods, undersized for their families, or are labeled as “fixer-uppers.” It is also possible to deal with extremely long commutes to and from work. And, of course, there is what the Martins are dealing with – spending thousands more out of their pocket than what they had budgeted.

Kate Needham is a veteran who is the co-founder of Armed Forces Housing Advocates. She commented that “We have families coming to us that are on exorbitantly lengthy waiting lists and sitting in homes that they can’t afford, like an Airbnb rental, or they’re at a hotel or camping in tents or living in RVs.”

These are all well-known issues, especially among families who have already had to deal with a PCS in the past two years. Meanwhile, each and every military branch is experiencing abnormally low recruiting numbers.

The housing market is a mess – and for those in the military, it will end up being a reason why they choose not to reenlist.