Living in the barracks or on base has its upsides (and downsides), but there’s a lot to be said for having a place of your very own outside the gate. And unlike civilians who want to rent a home, those in the military don’t have to fret about their rent being a huge chunk of their paychecks because of a little thing called BAH. Whether there’s just no housing on base or you want to live with a little more independence on the weekends, this benefit makes sure you don’t pay out of pocket to have a roof over your head because military BAH rates are designed to cover most or all of your housing costs.
What Is BAH?
BAH stands for Basic Allowance for Housing. All active personnel, to include reservists and members of the National Guard serving on active duty for at least 30 days, are eligible and will receive a stipend calculated to cover roughly 95% of the cost of renting a home. Your BAH money will be added on top of your pay that you receive every month to cover the average monthly rent and utilities for those living off-base. There are a few attributing factors that go into how much BAH you will receive:
- Your rank
- Whether or not you have dependents
- The average rent around your base
Dual Military BAH
In cases where both spouses in a marriage are on active duty, both will receive the without-dependent BAH rate commensurate based on their rank and location. If a married couple has children, only one parent (the higher ranking one) will receive the higher with-dependent BAH rate.
BAH Type 2
While personnel in the reserves or National Guard activated for 30 days or longer receive standard BAH during that time period, those activated for less than 30 days receive BAH Reserve Component/Transit (BAH RC/T). It’s also sometimes called BAH Type 2 or BAH Type II, depending on your numerical preference. Unlike standard BAH, RC/T is based solely on your rank and whether or not you have dependents. Location does not factor in.
If you’re a service member with no dependents living in government quarters (such as the barracks, temporary on-base lodgings, or base housing), you’ll receive a small fraction of the standard BAH for someone of your rank and location.
Commonly referred to as BAH Diff, this is BAH specifically for service members living in government quarters who pay child support. Someone will not receive BAH Diff if the monthly amount they pay in child support is less than the amount of BAH Diff they would be eligible for.
2021 Military BAH Rates
Now that you are familiar with who receives BAH and why, here are the important changes that may affect military BAH rates in 2021.
According to the Department of Defense, BAH rates across the nation have increased an average of 2.9% for 2021. (Click to Tweet this)
However, you may not see an increase in your personal BAH and may even see a decrease. The possible reasons for that are:
- The average rent in your area may have decreased significantly.
- Expected out-of-pocket costs for servicemembers’ rent has increased gradually over the last few years, from 1% in 2015 to the current 5%.
- The estimated cost of renter’s insurance is no longer included.
If you’re worried about your BAH going down and the effect it may have on your ability to pay rent, you may not be affected. You’ll continue to receive the same amount as last year until you experience a change in rank, dependent status, or get your PCS orders.
BAH Calculator 2021
Or maybe you’re just curious what the change from last year’s rate at your current posting is?
Either way, you can see exactly what you’ll get with the Defense Travel Management Office’s official BAH calculator. Just select the year, type in the zip code, you or your spouse’s pay grade, and hit “calculate.”
Overseas Housing Allowance
As you may have guessed by the name, OHA is the equivalent of BAH for those service members who live off-base while stationed outside the 50 states. For example, those stationed in non-state US territories like Guam receive OHA rather than BAH.
In addition to the rental and utility coverage it’s meant to pay for, it may also include an initial move-in housing allowance (MIHA). This is to defray the cost of initial expenses of moving somewhere outside the US. When you arrive at your overseas station, check in with your nearest housing office to apply for your OHA and any MIHA reimbursement you may be entitled to. If the base has no such office, check with your CO.
Just like BAH, there are a few attributing factors that go into how much OHA you will receive:
- Whether or not you have dependents
- The average rent where you are stationed.
Also like BAH, the DTMO offers a handy and up-to-date OHA calculator. This way you can see exactly how much your payments will be at any eligible location in the world. And if you have any additional questions their OHA FAQ is pretty handy, too.
GI Bill BAH
Technically called a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA), all veterans attending school on the GI Bill receive funds to help offset the cost of rent just as they used to on active duty. All full-time graduate or undergraduate students receive payments for every month they are actively in school. So you don’t get them during months you’re not in class.
The monthly amount was previously based on the zip code of your school’s official address. But it’s now based on the average rent in the zip code where the majority of your classes take place. The rate is set at that of an E-5 with dependents in that location, regardless of your family status or most recent rank.
BAH gives service members the freedom to live off-base without digging into their savings whenever the rent is due. It means you and your family never have to weigh the downsides off living on base or waiting for an opening in base housing against the costs of living on your own, so rent costs are one less thing to worry about when moving.
Now you can focus on the other things while settling into your new home, like learning about your new base, what the weather will be like, where the best schools are, and where to go for good grub — and you can find it all on our blog!