My Coast Guard
Commentary | May 19, 2022

PCS season is underway. Let’s talk about housing

By Chief Warrant Officer 4 Allyson E.T. Conroy, MyCG Staff

Military members, when you transfer duty stations - perform a permanent change of station or PCS – there are a lot of things to consider. Is there government housing available at your new duty station? If not, where do you want to live relative to your new job? What does the purchase or rental market look like? How much of your housing cost will your basic allowance for housing (BAH) cover?

What is BAH?

Military members receive BAH as part of their allowances. This allowance is meant to offset private sector housing costs for service members who live off base in the local economy. These rates vary depending on your pay grade, where your permanent duty station is, and depend on whether or not you claim dependents. BAH has two components, median rental rate for each profile and average utility costs for the location.

Most people believe that BAH should cover all of their housing needs from monthly rent or mortgage to utilities. However, when government housing is not available and service members find housing on the economy, the BAH that is set for their permanent duty station zip code serves as an equitable allowance to help you afford adequate rental housing near your duty station. An illustration of the BAH profiles that indicate what each paygrade should expect their BAH to cover

  • BAH is based on median rents
  • Rents are set based on the median rate for each housing profile within each military housing area
  • If a member’s rent is at or above their median and/or above their housing profile they will have out-of-pocket expenses
  • BAH is NOT intended to cover every member’s total housing cost
  • BAH includes individual rate protection
  • By law, no member’s BAH can decrease as long as they retain uninterrupted eligibility: do not move, change dependency status, or lose rank

It is highly recommended that you before you begin your housing search be aware of what your BAH will be at your next duty station. You can look up the rates using the Defense Travel Management Office BAH page. Enter your zip code, your paygrade. 

How is BAH determined?

BAH rates are based on the local median rental rates – not home purchase markets. Of course you can use your BAH for a mortgage payment, however you should keep in mind that BAH does not reflect the home buying market. 

“The rates that members see in BAH are not intended to track or reflect what the local housing market is,” Wayne Canfield, the Coast Guard’s housing program coordinator said. “Housing markets based on home selling prices fluctuate regularly. 

Leased housing option

In the case when the rental market far exceeds a member’s BAH or housing requirement, you should know there are options. Coast Guard-leased housing is another option for members. (This program just updated, be sure to read the latest.) The Coast Guard has owned and/or leased housing options in many locations. Please visit the Housing Management website to see the locations of those housing options.

“We are here to help, and we want our members to know that,” Canfield said. “It is important to know there are options and you should speak with the local housing office early and often to help you in your search.”

Remember, BAH is based on the local rental market, not the home buying market. If you can’t find housing within your budget or way over your BAH, connect with your local housing office to assist you to find your next home at your new duty station. 

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