Military Personnel:

Higher Allowances Should Increase Use of Civilian Housing, but Not Retention

GAO-01-684: Published: May 31, 2001. Publicly Released: May 31, 2001.

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Increasing the housing allowance should help satisfy servicemembers' demand for civilian housing. Of those servicemembers who receive an allowance or live in military housing, about 72 percent said that they would prefer civilian housing if the costs were the same, but only about two-thirds now live in civilian housing. Thus, if military members' housing preferences were satisfied, thousands of additional personnel would be in civilian housing instead of military housing. As the Department of Defense (DOD) increases the housing allowance during the next five years, the overall demand for civilian housing should increase, while the demand for military housing should decline. As a result, DOD should be in a better position to implement its stated policy of relying on the private sector first for housing. DOD cannot expect a substantial increase in retention solely as a result of higher housing allowances. Together, housing and housing allowances were cited by less than one percent of those surveyed as reasons for leaving the military. Overall, of those living in military housing, more were satisfied than dissatisfied. Of those living in civilian housing, a high proportion were satisfied with the homes they chose. However, 57 percent were dissatisfied with their housing allowance.

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