What you WON’T find in military base housing

by | Oct 2, 2016 | Memes and Military Humor, Military Life, New Military Spouse, PCS | 17 comments

Things you won’t find in base housing that are “standard” in most off-base homes:

I used to love to watch HGTV. Who doesn’t enjoy shows about beautiful homes, first-time home buyers, and crazy renovation stories? When we lived off-base in our first house, I found those shows fun and inspiring. But at our last two bases, we have lived on base, in government housing. And now I find myself frustrated by these civilian couples who truly don’t realize how good they have it. He wants a man-cave, she wants a breakfast nook, and they have a budget close to a million dollars. That can’t be real life, can it? Because that is not what we find in base housing.

Should we live on base or off base?

To be honest, I actually like living on base. But that doesn’t mean it is perfect for everyone. Or that I can’t occasionally complain about it. The debate whether military families should live on base or off base really depends on the family and the base. There were times in our marriage where it made the most sense to live off base. There were other times where it made more sense to live on base. We usually decided based on what housing we would qualify for. This is determined at each base by the service member’s rank and number of children. Some bases have newer homes or nice renovations for higher ranks. At other locations, housing has been basically unchanged since it was built in the 1960’s. And anyone who watches HGTV can tell you that housing standards have changed a LOT since the 1960’s. Here are some things that are “standard” off base, but won’t be found in most base homes

What you WON’T find in base housing:

Architectural details and character: Base housing is usually designed to be simple, cheap, and compact. Inside, you will not find bay windows, wainscoting, tray ceilings, recessed lighting, or any Craftsman-style charm. The walls are always white (although you are allowed to paint them).

Master Suite: Most base houses do have a Master bedroom and bathroom, often attached. But they aren’t very large. Some housing cannot accommodate a king sized bed. And our “Master” bath is no bigger than the guest bathroom. Sitting rooms and man caves? Forget about it.

Climate control: Even in hot climates, base housing does not always include air conditioning. And sometimes, window AC units are not allowed because the power grid could not support it for every home. Ceiling fans are usually provided instead. Yay.

Large backyard: If you have pets, this is a big factor in the choice to live on or off base. Base housing generally has small yards. And they aren’t always fenced. And housing usually limits each house to only 2 dogs. On a plus side though, base housing usually includes dog parks, nice playgrounds, and swimming pools.

Large bathrooms: If you have visions of a bathroom with his and her sinks, a large soaking tub, or a rain shower, then you had better look off base. Base housing only includes 1 bathroom per 3 people, and they are tiny. As in, I can barely bathe my children in the tub because the toilet blocks half the room. Which is why sharing the bathroom is one thing I don’t miss during deployment.

Walk-in closets: Our first house OFF base had a walk-in closet in the Master bedroom, with plenty of room for both our clothes. There was also a walk-in pantry in the kitchen. Our current base housing has… 1 tiny closet in the bedroom that barely fits all his uniforms.

Fireplace: A fireplace is either a nice focal point in historic homes, or a beautiful luxury in modern homes. It is not something you will find in base housing. So, you will have to get creative in hanging the Christmas stockings.

Built-in storage: It would be amazing if base housing ever included bookshelves or built-in cabinets. Then we wouldn’t need to drag our own 5 bookshelves and 3 wall-mounted shelves to each duty station. But alas, no. Base housing is BYOB: Bring Your Own Bookshelves.

Base housing is BYOB: Bring Your Own Bookshelves. Click To Tweet

2-car garages: Some newer homes on base do have large garages. But older base housing was built after WWII, when families only owned 1 car. So the garages in our base housing neighborhood barely fit 1 modern car. Instead, they are used as much-needed storage space. Because where else are you going to store all that military gear?

Granite countertops: Haha, no. Base housing kitchens have the cheapest possible materials, which means plastic or tile countertops. They usually have scratches from previous tenants, and are difficult to get clean.

Stainless steel appliances: While it is nice that base housing includes a stove and refrigerator, they are usually cheap models, never steel. My current stove came with a melted hole around the timer control button. Most base houses do NOT include a microwave or washer and dryer.

Basements or attics: I don’t know if these are omitted for safety and cleanliness reasons, because we have always lived near a coastal area, or if it is just cheaper to build houses without them. Has anyone ever seen base housing with an attic or basement?

Which of these features would you miss the most if you lived in base housing?

17 Comments

  1. Mckenna

    This list is spot on! We were waiting for Coronado housing, but one tour of those tiny, tiny bedrooms and the one bathroom we’d all have to share cured us of wanting to stay on that epically long wait list…

    Reply
    • Lizann

      I hear ya. I have to admit we have been lucky with base housing for our large family, but I totally understand that these are some of the reasons people live off base. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply
  2. Heather

    We are currently living in housing and it’s definitely the biggest house we’ve had in military housing during my husband’s Army career. Our 2 car garage is a blessing with the wild Colorado weather we frequently get. Housing options have come along way in recent years!

    Reply
  3. Eric

    How common is it to own your residence on-base?

    Reply
    • Lizann

      I’m not aware that anyone can own a building on base. They are all owned by the government and ‘rented’ to the service members who pay with BAH.
      Some people who live on base own a house elsewhere and rent it out, but that’s a different situation.

      Reply
      • Eric

        Thank you for your speedy reply.

        Reply
        • Lizann

          You’re welcome! I try to respond quickly to all questions. 🙂

          Reply
      • Eric

        One follow-up question: If someone were to make improvements to their on-base residence (as in painting the walls) or more maybe something more costly–would there be any concession on rent? As in, I spent $1000 improving this base house, therefore I get $x off of rent? It’s okay to tell me I’m crazy (I know I’m fully uninformed about military life, so I really appreciate your expert perspective)…

        Reply
        • Lizann

          No, the base housing contract says that improvements must be made through the Housing Office. Personal investments are not allowed or reimbursed. If you paint the walls, they must be re-painted white before you move.

          Reply
  4. Trey

    You are seriously high maintenance. Did you honestly think marrying someone in the military and living on base in an ESSENTIALLY FREE house would get you a 500,000 dollar home? Maybe you should have done your research and married a doctor instead. It’s a huge disappointment hearing dependas complaining about how LUCKY you are to have what most people would kill for. Ungrateful dependapotamus.

    Reply
    • Sommer

      Trey, what’s this about “essentially free housing”? My husband is active duty Air Force and we live in 1950s unimproved base housing on the Air Force Academy. The duplex has tiny bedrooms and bathrooms, leaky pipes and faucets, tiny kitchen sink and refrigerator, no garage, no air conditioning, no fenced yard and no grass or landscaping (all yards are sand and weeds), not to mention it’s just plain ugly and very outdated housing in general. We pay $1,642 per month for rent to live here and pay all utilities on top of that, but it’s cheaper than living off base in a decent area near the Academy and we do appreciate the security of the base and most of all the high ranked schools for our kids, so to us it’s worth the many downsides of the house itself. We’ve lived in nicer base housing in the past, so it’s not bad across the board, but I’m curious if you are in the military yourself and how it is you think you know all about living in base housing.

      Reply
  5. Brooke

    New milspouse here. We are about to go active. How hard is it to get into housing on base? We’ve decided thats what we would prefer but is it going to be a pain?

    Reply
    • Lizann

      It really depends on the base, the neighborhood you desire, and the service member’s rank. Some areas have a 1-year wait list. Others none at all! Call the Housing office for your base to get the most up-to-date info.

      Reply
      • Shirley

        If my husband is to leave to a certain base in a couple months lets say, I call and ask what the wait is for housing and they say 1-year, what happens then, its not our choice that we have to find off base housing so do they help with situations like that?
        Sorry I know I am late to the thread.

        Reply
        • Lizann

          Thanks for reading! Yes, some bases have such long wait lists or limited housing that you have to live off base. You can talk to the Housing office and they can give you info about local neighborhoods and Realtors, but they won’t really set up off-base arrangements for you. The earlier you call and the more research you do, the better it will go for you.

          Reply
  6. Dean Phillips

    I thought it was interesting how in military housing there is not a fireplace to be found so you will have to get creative in hanging Christmas stockings. My brother is in the military and has to constantly relocate his family to new homes, so they have been looking for a business that can help them find a home when they need to move. It would be great for them to get advice from someone who is familiar with military housing.

    Reply
    • Lizann

      Yes, there are a few companies that help with that! PCS Grades gives you reviews of base housing and local housing options from other military families have lived there before. Millie is another company that has milspouse volunteers around the country. A Millie Scout will be your eyes and ears if you are house hunting from another state. They can visit homes, take video footage, and answer questions about the area. I hope those are helpful!

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Can I visit a military base? ~ The Seasoned Spouse - […] Housing: On some bases, housing areas are segregated by rank or number of children. The housing is for service…
  2. How Your MWR Saves You Money | The Military Wallet - […] Outdoor Recreation saves you space. Outdoor hobbies can require a lot of bulky equipment that you only use a…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.