It’s an age old debate that every military spouse will have.
Not just once, but numerous times, throughout their military time in service.
“Should we live on base or off base?”
The truth is there is no One Size Fits All answer. What works for you may not work for your MilSpo BFF (that’s short for “Military Spouse”). Heck, what works for you at Duty Station #1, may be completely opposite of what works for you a Duty Station #2, #3 and #4.
So what things should you consider when deciding which is best for your family?
1. Will your active duty spouse be okay with living where he/she works?
Some families LOVE the convenience of a short commute, coming home on lunch breaks and having grocery, gas, schools and built in community. If this is you, on base housing is a great option.
2. How important is SPACE (square footage, bedrooms, yard, etc) to your family?
Military Housing is distributed based on the size of your family and the rank of your service member. For Junior ranking, small families, military housing may be a good fit- especially if you’re not concerned with having a HUGE home. For larger families, many times on base housing isn’t ideal. Homes on military installations are typically smaller than homes in the surrounding community, when you look at cost per square foot. This is why you’ll often hear families say they can get “more for their money” in off base housing. Most military housing is privatized, which means that the BAH that the soldier receives is paid to the private company that owns the housing development.
3. Where are you being stationed?
Let’s face it…there are some INCREDIBLE duty stations (locale wise) and there are some that are less than ideal. At Eglin AFB, my friend had a great home in base housing RIGHT on the bay. It was incredible and I would have lived there in a heartbeat. If your community has a lot to offer and easy access to great schools, family activities and low crime rate you DEFINITELY want to consider those positives.
4. Going Overseas?
Technically, I could have included this in number 3, but moving overseas definitely deserves it’s own space on the interwebs. I have many friends who are overseas and most LOVE their living arrangements; whether it’s on base housing or not. If you want to live among the locals and be a real life “When In Rome…” advocate, then living off base is ideal (if it’s an option). However, there’s nothing stopping you from living in military housing and still exploring your new surroundings! It’s the best of both worlds; having a built in community in a new location.
5. How old are your children?
If you have a family and the ages of your children makes a HUGE difference on where you live. If you have no children, the world is your oyster! If you have children that are not yet school age, then a choice based on the school system probably isn’t heavily weighted. But once you have a kid that is 5 or older- all bets are off! For Moms, and ESPECIALLY Military Mommas with the constant moving already giving our kiddos one strike against them, school district is the NUMBER ONE reason we choose to live in a certain neighborhood. Most DoD schools have a great reputation of excellence. If you’re being stationed in a place with a less than stellar school district- on base housing may be the choice for you.
All in all, when talking to several of my #milspo friends, it seems that on base housing is ideal for:
- Couples with no children, or small children who don’t have an issue with a smaller home (less to clean!)
- Families with 1 small pet
- Overseas assignments where a built in community is desirable
- Families where convenience is KEY
- Having lots of activities for your children available only a short distance from home
If these things are important to you, then off base housing is the way to go:
- Lots of space and privacy! Bigger home, bigger yard, bigger family and a few pets
- Having a wide variety of friends that include civillians
- Living among the locals and experiencing every part of the culture of an overseas assignment
- Ensuring that your BAH is paying for space that’s equal to the local cost of livingOf course, these are generalizations! Every duty station is different. But, don’t take my word for it… here are some thoughts from military spouses just like you!