Although the Army provides soldiers with on-base housing, some service members may wish to live off base. Although duty postings may require multiple moves during the course of an Army career, some soldiers may nevertheless wish to make a long-term commitment to a particular area and purchase a home. Although the Army normally does not provide soldiers with money specifically to buy a house, it does offer special pay that can be used for housing, whether the soldier is renting or buying.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
The Basic Allowance for Housing or BAH provides a monthly stipend to troops who live off their assigned base. Rates depend on your rank, zip code, time served and number of dependents.
Buying a House in the Military
The Army supplements its base pay with a number of allowances and special pays, depending on a soldier's individual circumstances. One of these allowances is the Basic Allowance for Housing, which provides a monthly addition to pay for troops living off their assigned base. The BAH may be more than enough to make a monthly mortgage payment in the base's area, even including taxes and insurance, if a soldier has enough rank and service time.
This actual amount of this allowance depends upon a soldier's rank, time in the Army, whether or not he has dependents and where he is stationed. For instance, as of 2019, the BAH for an E-5 with dependents stationed in Sedgwick County, Kansas with 10 years of service comes in at $1,143 per month.The same person stationed in Honolulu County, Hawaii would receive $3,029 per month. You can use a Military Pay calculator to find out how much BAH you are entitled to receive.
Rules for Combining Allowances
The Army has a variety of rules that cover the BAH in the event two soldiers are married. This may enable a married couple to afford a home payment with their combined BAH, even if the individual pays are not sufficient. Generally, each of two married soldiers with no dependents gain the individual BAH rate. If two soldiers are married to each other and have children, the higher-ranking service member receives the BAH for soldiers with dependents, and the lower-ranking one receives the BAH on the table for soldiers without dependents.
If the married soldiers do not reside together, the soldier who lives with the children uses the "with dependents" chart, while the soldier who does not live with the children uses the "without dependents" chart.
Student Veterans' Stipend
One of the provisions of the Post-9/11 GI Bill gives Army veterans who have become full-time students a monthly housing stipend in addition to such benefits as tuition reimbursement. This may enable veterans to purchase a house in the area where they have settled after retiring from the Army, just as the BAH might allow active-duty soldiers to purchase one. As of 2019, this stipend is based on the BAH rate for an E-5 – a sergeant – with dependents, with the location element based on where the veteran is attending college.
Army Help to Buy Down Payments
Although some home purchases can be made without a down payment, a lump sum of 20 percent may either seal a deal or at least prevent the need for mortgage insurance. Some Army programs may help a soldier come up with the down payment money – normally far more than a monthly mortgage payment. For instance, the Army periodically offers enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses, which could be saved for a down payment, or applied to one. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers home loan guarantees to Army veterans to help them qualify for a mortgage loan from a third-party lender.
Eric Strauss spent 12 years as a newspaper copy editor, eventually serving as a deputy business editor at "The Star-Ledger" in New Jersey before transitioning into academic communications. His byline has appeared in several newspapers and websites. Strauss holds a B.A. in creative writing/professional writing and recently earned an M.A. in English literature.