By Claudette Roulo, American Forces Press ServiceDecember 17, 2012
WASHINGTON (AFPS Dec. 17, 2012) -- On Jan. 1, service members can expect to see an average increase of about $60 in their 2013 basic allowance for housing, Cheryl Anne Woehr, the BAH program manager for DOD, said Dec. 13.
Overall, rates went up an average of 3.8 percent, Woehr said. Rate increases were spread throughout the country.
"There wasn't any particular one region that was a big winner or a big loser this year," she said.
Service members in New York City will receive the largest increase this year, 14.7 percent on average, followed closely by Altus Air Force Base, Okla., which will see a 14.1 percent average increase.
Rates for basic allowance for housing, or BAH, are set through annual reviews of market rents, utility costs and renter's insurance rates, Woehr said.
"We measure those in each location for various types of housing," she said.
The BAH program office surveys property managers to determine current rental rates in each duty location. Housing types considered include apartments, town homes and duplexes, as well as single-family rental units of various bedroom sizes. Utility information is derived from the American Community Survey, conducted annually by the Census Bureau, and renter's insurance information comes from area insurance companies, she said.
"We want to make sure [service] members are able to afford adequate and appropriate housing within a reasonable distance of their duty station," Woehr said.
About one million service members receive BAH, she said, which is paid to service members in the U.S. who live off base or in privatized base housing. The allowance is designed to cover the total housing cost for the median rental housing type for the service member's pay grade, Woehr said.
Service members who reside outside the U.S. receive an overseas housing allowance, which is not affected by changes to BAH, she said.
BAH varies between pay grades because, by law, it is also determined in part by assessing the housing of civilians in similar pay brackets, Woehr said.
"We look at what civilians in a typical income range typically live in, and we price that type of housing for equivalently paid military personnel," she said.
About 21 percent of BAH localities saw a net decrease, but service members already receiving a higher allowance at those locations will continue to receive it, Woehr said.
"We recognize that they've already made housing decisions based on that amount," she said. "It's only members newly reporting that will receive the new lower rates."
Department of Defense officials also announced the new basic allowance for subsistence, or BAS, rates for military members. Enlisted service members will receive $352.27 a month, up from $348.44 per month this year. Officers will receive $242.60 a month, up from $239.96 in 2012.
Annual adjustments to BAS, a monthly, nontaxable cash payment intended to be used to buy food, are linked to changes in food prices as measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The index rose by 1.1 percent between the beginning of October 2011 and the end of September 2012, forming the basis for the increased BAS rates.