Housing pay: How did they figure?

Local property managers say Navy never surveyed them about local rental rates

  • Friday, January 7, 2000 7:00pm
  • News

“So how did the Pentagon determine that it was now less expensive to live on Whidbey Island?Ironically, the new housing allowance rates were instituted in response to complaints from military men and women that the rates were too low.To improve that situation, defense officials surveyed 400 locations across the US and came up with a rent and mortgage average for each of the areas, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott.The idea, she said, “Was that a service member stationed at Whidbey Island will be paying the same amount out of their pocket (for rent or mortgage) as a service member in any part of the United States.”Previously, Abbott said, the basic allowance for housing was determined partly by surveying service members on what they paid on average, for housing in a particular area. Another determining factor included pay grade and dependency status.One of the problems with that system, Abbott said, was that some service members were living in cheaper housing intentionally, to make money off of their basic allowance for housing.Under the new system, defense officials themselves determined the median cost for housing in the 400 areas for civilians and military housing, as opposed to relying on service member surveys. As a result, housing allowances went up for 60 percent of service members. But the rates either stayed the same or went down for the other 40 percent.On Whidbey, the rates went down. The move won’t affect people who are already here, but will affect anyone who picks up a new dependent, gets promoted, or transfers here.Asked exactly how the Pentagon determined that the housing allowance on Whidbey should be reduced, Abbott said she wasn’t certain.“I don’t now if anyone actually came to Whidbey Island,” Abbott said.Of 11 property management firms on Whidbey contacted by the News-Times, none had spoken to, or been contacted by, Pentagon officials seeking information on housing or rental prices.Asked if the Pentagon considered that the housing allowance reductions might hurt morale — that the new pay raise was supposed to boost — Abbott said the program was intended to improve the quality of life for service members throughout the U.S.“The purpose is not to take money away from people; the purpose is to make housing more affordable,” she said.”

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