Military BAH: The Good, The Bad, and The GREAT!
(Hope, I always appreciate when you vote on your favorite title or two)…helps me a lot!
Military Basic Allowance for Housing Rates for 2020 (Just in case I break the button above)
Basic allowance for housing (BAH) is one of the greatest benefits available to service members. Yet it is surprising to me how little I understood about the way it was calculated.
Hell, I didn’t even know there was BAH rate protection to ensure your allowance never went down while at a duty station!
I did a lot more research for you, and wanted to share some of the knowledge to help you better understand this incredible, untaxed, benefit!
Military BAH Rate Protection
The DoD Policies for BAH have a “grandfather clause” that ensures you don’t lose money just because military BAH has gone down. Your BAH won’t drop unless you change duty stations!
Basic Allowance for Housing is based on the higher of:
- The rate you were receiving on 31 December of the previous year, or
- The new BAH rate that went into effect on 1 January.
For example, if the 2020 BAH rate is lower than what you were receiving in 2019, you will continue to receive the 2019 rate.
The reason behind this is to ensure service members are still able to pay any leases they are locked into.
The only situations in which your Basic Allowance for Housing can go down are when the service member gets demoted, or has a change in your dependency status.
The obvious caveat to this when you execute permanent change of station (PCS) orders to another location.
How Does Promotion Affect Military BAH
If you get promoted during the year, then your BAH will be the higher of:
- The rate in effect for your new rank
- The protected rate you were receiving at your old rank
Your housing allowance will never drop to a lower rate because of a promotion.
Have you ever heard somebody complaining about how their basic allowance for housing doesn’t cover the cost of their home?
I hear these complaints all the time, and the answer is to live within your means.
You need to understand that BAH is based on the size of home your rank rates. For example, an E-4 will receive much less in BAH than a Colonel, because it is (reasonably) assumed that he requires less space for his family.
The problem isn’t the amount of money you receive, as this is extremely data driven. Rather, the problem is (usually) the amount of house you want to occupy. Sorry, an E-4 doesn’t receive enough BAH to own a castle…that is a want, not a NEED!
|PAYGRADE||HOUSING TYPE||BAH CALCULATION|
|E-1||2br apartment||halfway between 2br apartment, and 2br townhouse|
|E-2||2br apartment||halfway between 2br apartment, and 2br townhouse|
|E-3||2br apartment||halfway between 2br apartment, and 2br townhouse|
|E-4||2br apartment||halfway between 2br apartment, and 2br townhouse|
|E-5||2br townhouse||calculated amount for a two bedroom townhouse|
|E-6||3br townhouse||calculated amount for a three bedroom townhouse|
|E-7||3br townhouse||3br townhouse plus 36% of difference toward a 3br single family home|
|E-8||3br townhouse||3br townhouse plus 75% of difference toward a 3br single family home|
|E-9||3br single family home||calculated amount for a three bedroom house|
|W-1||3br townhouse||3br townhouse plus 1% of difference toward a 3br single family home|
|CWO-2||3br townhouse||3br townhouse plus 52% of difference toward a 3br single family home|
|CWO-3||3br single family home||calculated amount for a three bedroom single family home|
|CWO-4||3br single family home||3br single family home plus 22% toward 4br single family home|
|CWO-5||3br single family home||3br single family home plus 48% toward 4br single family home|
|O-1||2br townhouse||2br townhouse plus 11% of difference toward a 3br townhouse|
|0-2||2br townhouse||2br townhouse plus 98% of difference toward a 3br townhouse|
|0-3||3br single family home||3br townhouse plus 98% of difference toward a 3br single family home|
|0-4||3br single family home||3br single family home plus 58% toward 4br single family home|
|0-5||4br single family home||calculated amount for a four bedroom single family home|
|O-6+||4br single family home||PROBABLY NOT READING THIS|
No, the size of your family doesn’t play into the size of house you rate. That algorithm would be a nightmare for the military to track.
How is the Basic Allowance for Housing Calculated?
“Robert D. Niehaus, Inc. (RDN) is employed to collect the nation-wide housing cost data that are used to compute BAH. Established in 1983, RDN is a professional economic and public policy consulting firm located in Santa Barbara, California. The firm specializes in applied analysis of military housing, water resources, environmental resources, industry economics, and community socioeconomic issues. RDN possesses many years of experience with DoD military housing projects and housing market research.” (source)
This company does not calculate the military BAH allocations. They do, however, provide data from over 400 markets across the United States, in order to determine the cost for living in each market.
What does BAH cover?
Basic allowance for housing is designed to compensate military members for 95% of the expenses of maintaining a home. This untaxed housing benefit is to cover you when not living in military housing, and will ensure you can afford to live in a house, the size your rank is entitled to.
Both rent and utility expenses are included in this BAH calculation. The above table is cross-referenced with the data from RDN, and that is what decides your military BAH for the next year.
They survey housing costs during the summer, while there is a high turnover of tenants. That ensures a more up to date sample of gross market rents to pull data from.
Information on utility costs is collected using rates from local utility providers.
As you can see, there is a LOT of data utilized to determine what BAH rates need to be. That is great, because it means you will inevitably be able to live in solid, affordable housing, in your market!
Again, please note that if you choose to live in a larger home (which is totally fine), that is your decision. Don’t go around complaining that BAH is too low, you chose to live there!
I hope you found this information as useful as I did, especially the grandfather clause I didn’t know existed!
Here is the 2020 Military Pay Chart