Basic allowance for housing — commonly known as BAH — is a tax-exempt addition to the service member’s paycheck. Available for active-duty soldiers of a certain rank or reservists and/or National Guardsmen while on a full-time assignment, these bi-weekly payments are meant to offset the cost of living.
Monthly BAH payments are split in half and sent out equally with the service member’s bi-weekly paychecks. The amount a service member receives is based on rank and location, as well as their dependent status. Often, lower-ranking service members do not receive BAH unless they are married, as they would otherwise be housed in barracks. Higher ranking service members may receive a lesser amount if they are unmarried and without children.
Geographical areas that are more expensive receive more in BAH, and service members moving overseas can also receive Overseas Housing Allowance or OHA.
In addition, for more expensive regions, service members could receive cost of living adjustments, or COLA. These funds are to help offset high prices of everyday items, like groceries, supplies and more.
How much is your BAH?
To determine how much you’ll receive in BAH, the DOD offers a calculator. Input your rank and zip code to determine how much you’ll receive per month. The numbers are adjusting annually, accounting for any increases (or decreases) in average rent and real estate prices. Average utility fees are also built into the overall BAH total.
To check out your current BAH, or to look at allowances for a new area, head to this chart.
How to budget rent
When living on post, when available, many service members will have their BAH withheld. Instead, the fees go directly to the housing management company. There are some options where housing choices take “full BAH” or all of your monthly housing funds, or a lesser amount. Usually, the latter is reserved for housing options that are smaller or dated.
When living off post, it’s a good idea to calculate rent and average utility bills. In order to avoid coming out of pocket for additional bills, you should ensure these totals fall at or your total monthly BAH allotment.
The inclusion of utilities
In 2012, the DoD changed the way they calculated BAH by adding utilities, noting that they varied greatly by location. (In the same way that real estate itself varies.) These results are published and can be viewed here.
Supplemental increases to account for the housing market
After experiencing inflated prices in the housing market, the DoD is set to release supplemental BAH increases for certain military duty stations throughout the country, especially those with inflated living costs. These additional funds will be offered from October to December of 2021. The increases are not available to service members who live on post.
The fee hike is in relation to the housing shortage that was brought on by COVID-19, and subsequent house and rent price hikes. In order for military families to afford housing, the DoD has put this plan into effect, they said.
In 2020, BAH increases covered more than 300 military housing areas or MHAs. Five of those areas are getting as much as a 20% increase, 11 increase by 15%, and the remaining areas will up their allowances by 10%.
In 2021, a similar plan was put into place, covering 56 MHAs.
Check this list to see if you’re stationed in an area eligible for BAH increases.
The DoD further clarified that soldiers can receive access to additional BAH funds by filing with their S1 office; the increases are planned to kick in within a few weeks of filing.
New BAH rates are released for the start of the calendar year. Stay tuned for updates on new rates released by the DoD.