Congress weighs proposals aimed at helping military families keep up with housing costs

With rent rising at the fastest pace in decades, it’s harder than ever for many Americans to keep up with housing costs – and active-duty service members and their families are no exception.

The Defense Department gives a housing allowance to service members and their families to offset the cost of housing and it varies based on location, pay grade and dependents.

“With inflation being what it is as we all know around the country, oftentimes we’re hearing that those allowances aren’t covering the actual cost of housing for the military families,” said Tom Porter, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “We hear it all the time. Not just housing costs but meeting the actual rising cost of living, of everything.”

Bipartisan bills in the House and Senate would extend the Defense Department’s temporary housing allowance increase in areas where the cost of living is more than 20 percent of the allowance.

The temporary adjustment is set to expire on September 30, 2022, and the proposals would extend it through 2024.

“Many Georgia military families have asked me to help with the high cost of housing,” said Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in a statement. “That’s why I’ve introduced this bipartisan bill to help them so that servicemembers, their spouses, and their kids are secured in safe, affordable housing.”

“The men and women who dedicate their lives to serve our country should not have to worry about being unable to afford a decent home for their families,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a statement. “This bipartisan bill would help military families suffering from inflation, supply chain issues, or natural disasters continue to access affordable housing.”

A package of bills in the House focuses on restoring full housing benefits and removing barriers to homeownership for military families.

Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) serves on the House Committee on Armed Services and introduced the package dubbed “Ensuring Every Servicemember Has a Home.”

It includes the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Restoration Act, the BAH Calculation Improvement Act, the Increasing Homeownership for Servicemembers Act, and Building More Housing for Servicemembers Act.

“The people who wear the uniform, and their families who sacrifice so much, should be securely housed,” Strickland told our Washington News Bureau. “Regardless of what your political affiliation is, if you support our military, if you support our families, they should be securely housed.”

It’s a goal veterans groups say is a top priority.

“Whatever the military can do to help those military families meet those increased costs, that would be significant in retaining those quality and committed military personnel and their families,” said Porter.