Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase by an average of 5.1% across the board for military members on Jan. 1, according to defense officials.

But, as expected, the rates in many of the 56 areas that became eligible Oct. 1 for a temporary extra allowance — due to rapidly escalating housing costs attributable to the pandemic — will be substantially higher than that.

The 5.1% represents the largest average increase in BAH since before 2016, when service members saw an average 3.4% bump in their housing allowance.

The increases vary by geographic location, paygrade and dependent status. The 5.1% increase in BAH is an average across the spectrum and doesn’t guarantee that everybody will see that increase — or any at all. Service members can get information about their specific housing allowance at DoD’s BAH calculator.

Defense officials expect to pay an estimated $25.6 billion in BAH to about 1 million service members in 2022, according to their announcement of the new rates.

Those who are in areas where the BAH rate decreases in 2022 will have individual rate protection so they won’t be receiving less money as long as they live there. This ensures service members who have made long-term rental agreements are not penalized if the area’s housing costs decline.

This rate protection doesn’t apply to the extra money service members in the 56 geographic locations are receiving due to the temporary BAH rate increases approved for October through December of this year.

Those increases — which range from 10% to 20% — were designed to help mitigate the financial difficulties of troops hit hard by surging housing costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But they expire Dec. 31 since the 2022 BAH rates take effect the following day. Service members in those designated areas can, however, still apply for the extra money retroactively.

A Military Times spot check of three ranks in the five locations where rates were temporarily bumped up by 20 percent showed that the 2022 BAH rates increased by either slightly less or slightly more than 20%, compared to the regular 2021 rates.

For example, a single E-1 at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, California, will receive $1,146 a month in 2022, a 21.2% increase over the regular 2021 BAH rate. An E-5 with dependents there will receive $1,461, a 21.1% increase over the regular 2021 rate. An O-4 with dependents will get $2,274, an increase of 21%.

An E-5 with dependents at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., will get $1,968 a month, an increase of 18.2% over the regular 2021 rates.

A check of some, but not all, of the other locations eligible for temporary BAH revealed rate increases ranging from 8% to 16% over the housing allowances that took effect in January 2021.

BAH rates go up or down based on rental housing cost data for various types of houses, collected each year for more than 300 military housing areas in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. The BAH computations include the median current market rent and average utilities cost for the housing units.

The services and local military housing offices help in the collection effort, with local commands providing input that’s used to determine the neighborhoods where data is collected, helping to direct the collection effort to adequate apartment complexes and individual housing units.

Service members who live in privatized housing pay rent that is equal to their BAH.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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