DOD has Authorized a Temporary BAH Increase Through December 2021

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Editor's note: This story was updated Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, to reflect DOD's approval of the BAH increase. 

The Department of Defense approved temporary increases to troops’ basic allowance for housing (BAH) stipends, just weeks after a leaked memorandum requesting the temporary hikes started making the rounds on social media and some military news websites. 

The rate increase, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, will temporarily increase troops’ BAH stipends by 10%, 15%, or 20% for 56 military housing area locations until the end of the year.

According to lists published on DOD sites, BAH increases may be as much as $4,296 or as little as $816. 

DOD estimates the increase will cost at much as $158 million, if every service member in the 56 eligible areas qualifies for the increase.

Military Members Must Apply for Increased BAH

The increase applies to both active duty military and full-time National Guard members. But, DOD said, service members must apply for the increased allowance and prove that they have incurred higher costs due to increasing housing prices.

DOD said eligible service members should receive an e-mail with information on how to apply for the increased stipend through their respective branches of service.

“Additionally, each service will publish information related to how to apply in administrative messages and other media channels,” DOD said.

DOD said in its original request for the increase that it doesn’t know how many service members would qualify, but estimates assume “maximum certification.” That means that all service members in the eligible areas could qualify, at an expected total cost of $158.9 million.

Covid-19 Significantly Changed Housing Prices

BAH is an untaxed allowance to cover housing costs for service members who live in communities surrounding military bases. But, the stipend hasn’t been sufficient to offset costs in some areas since the Covid-19 pandemic tipped the housing market in favor of sellers and landlords. Loosened restrictions on travel and PCS moves created an influx of military moves and increased demand for housing and soaring costs.

Military families are especially affected by the rental cost increases. About two-thirds of service members and their families live in communities surrounding military installations. More than 77% pay over $200 out-of-pocket each month for housing costs, according to the 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey.

“Notably, low availability and turnover of rental housing stock during the spring and summer months led to rental cost increases in many locations,” DOD said in its announcement.

“To help ease the financial burden of rising housing costs facing service members moving to new duty stations or signing new leases, the Department moved quickly to assess market changes across the U.S., develop a list of the most affected markets, and evaluate and implement potential solutions.”

Why Some Areas Got the BAH Increase While Others Didn’t

DOD said its decision comes after 5 months of housing data collection, which indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted rental housing costs in the 56 housing areas eligible for the increase.

Dietz said the BAH program considers each housing area separately, as there are distinct rental market conditions in each location.

“The data collected for some areas showed large increases in rental housing costs, which qualified them for the temporary BAH increases,” Dietz said. “Other areas may have experienced overall rental cost increases as well, but not to the same degree as the 56 affected (areas). And, there were even some areas that showed no change or decreases in costs.”

Temporary 2021 BAH Increases Will Not Carry Over Into 2022

The temporary BAH increase will continue through the end of December 2021, but new rates will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Because not all segments of a housing market increase or decrease at the same rate, the BAH rates for the calendar year 2022 may differ from the temporarily increased 2021 rates,” DOD said. “In some cases, 2022 BAH rates may be more than the temporarily increased 2021 BAH rates. In other cases, the 2022 BAH rates may be the same or may be less.”

Military Housing Areas That Will Get the Temporary 2021 BAH Increase

Here are the military housing areas eligible for the BAH hike.

20% Increase

  • TWENTY NINE PALMS MCB, CA               
  • EGLIN AFB, FL                                             
  • BOISE, ID                                         
  • MOUNTAIN HOME AFB, ID                                   
  • SPOKANE, WA                                                 

15% Increase

  • LEMOORE NAS, CA                                     
  • BARSTOW/FORT IRWIN, CA                                     
  • BEALE AFB, CA                                                
  • SACRAMENTO, CA                                            
  • STOCKTON, CA                                              
  • RIVERSIDE, CA                                               
  • BRIDGEPORT, CA  
  • FORT PIERCE, FL                                            
  • HELENA, MT                                                   
  • LUBBOCK, TX                                              
  • HAMPTON/NEWPORT NEWS, VA                                                                                                                                                                                                      

10% Increase

  • PHOENIX, AZ                                                  
  • FORT HUACHUCA, AZ                                             
  • YUMA, AZ                                                      
  • FRESNO, CA                                            
  • SAN BERNARDINO, CA                                           
  • EL CENTRO, CA                                                
  • COLORADO SPRINGS, CO                                          
  • NEW LONDON, CT                                              
  • HARTFORD, CT                                               
  • TAMPA, FL                                                   
  • WEST PALM BEACH, FL                                        
  • OCALA, FL                                                    
  • FLORIDA KEYS, FL                                            
  • SAVANNAH, GA                                                 
  • SPRINGFIELD/DECATUR, IL
  • PORTLAND, ME
  • BANGOR, ME
  • SAGINAW, MI
  • SPRINGFIELD, MO                                         
  • MALMSTROM AFB/GREAT FLS, MT                                    
  • MOREHEAD/CHERRY PT MCAS, NC                                 
  • CAMP LEJEUNE, NC                                             
  • WILMINGTON, NC                                                 
  • ASHEVILLE, NC                                                
  • FORT MONMOUTH/EARLE NWS, NJ                                      
  • TRENTON, NJ                                                   
  • JB MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, NJ                                     
  • ALBUQUERQUE/KIRTLAND AFB, NM                                  
  • WHITE SANDS MR/LAS CRUCES, NM                                    
  • SANTA FE/LOS ALAMOS, NM                                         
  • NELLIS AFB/LAS VEGAS, NV                                      
  • RENO/CARSON CITY, NV                                           
  • PROVIDENCE, RI                                             
  • WACO,TX                                                                 
  • SALT LAKE CITY, UT                                          
  • QUANTICO/WOODBRIDGE, VA                                     
  • RICHMOND/FORT LEE, VA                                      
  • DAHLGREN/FORT AP HILL, VA                                   
  • BREMERTON, WA                                                   
  • PORT ANGELES, WA                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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