Duty Station

There is No Such Thing as “Free” Housing

There’s no such thing as a free lunch and there certainly isn’t a free roof over our heads. It is a widespread misconception that BAH means “free housing” and is a perk that comes with joining the military. Whether one pays for that home with the intangible sacrifices that come with service, such as deployments, injuries or uprooting his or her family when Uncle Sam calls…or the very tangible dollars in hand when a mortgage or rent payment is due…the housing for military families is never free.

How many times has a civilian said something along these lines? “Well…since you live on base, your housing is free.” Or someone may have asked, “Don’t you love the fact that you don’t have to pay a mortgage? I can’t believe you get free housing.” Neither of those statements is even close to being true and we’ll break down how a military family pays for their home in the simplest of ways.

Consider this: for argument’s sake, lets say your spouse doesn’t get paid with money for his or her service. Instead, the government pays your spouse with a delicious apple pie each year. Then, to make it easy, the military will tell you what each piece of the pie represents. For enlisted families, one slice of the pie can even represent uniform expenses.

And for all service members, a slice of that pie will go toward housing expenses. You won’t get an extra slice of pie … but you know how that pie is divided up to cover your living expenses. Depending where you live and your rank, that slice of pie representing housing expenses, better known as “BAH” (Basic Allowance for Housing), may be bigger or smaller.

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