When my husband joined the Army, we made the decision that we would always live off post based on the experience of other family members who had served. There are advantages and disadvantages to each decision but we never regretted our decision to live off post.
On Post Housing
Each duty station has on post housing available. However, the waiting list can vary dramatically from one post to the next. Many posts offer temporary lodging that can be utilized until a home on post is available if the waiting list is fairly short. If the waiting list is longer, you may have to explore off post options until a home is available. If you pursue off post with the intention of moving on post when a home is available, be sure to carefully read your lease. The military clause does NOT cover you if housing becomes available on post.
Living on post used to be simple as far as the financial aspects of it. But with privatized housing where the housing is managed by a private company rather than the Army, it is becoming increasingly more complicated. For some posts, your BAH will cover rent as well as utilities. For others, it will cover rent and a portion of the utilities each month. When you live on post, the BAH is automatically deducted from the paycheck.
The convenience to living on post is that your soldier is probably just around the corner from his unit, he’ll likely be able to come home for lunch every day and as the spouse, you’re close to where social functions will be held as well as FRG meeting sites. You are also surrounded by other families who also have a member in the military. There’s never a lack of being able to find someone enduring the same situation as you are. Your kids may also adjust better on post as the other kids may also be dealing with mom or dad being deployed or at training, etc. They will also to be able to attend installation schools with other military kids. There is also a sense of security living on post, particularly if your soldier is deployed.
The downside to living on post is that the regulations are very strict. This can especially be an issue if you have pets. One of the main reasons we decided to live off post was because my husband thought he would always feel like he was at work if we lived on post and he wanted to be able to have an end to his day when he drove off post each day. It was also true, at least for his unit, that they called those who lived on post in after hours first before they would call those who lived off post because of them being closer.
Off Post Housing
For us, living off post was great because we could choose the size house that we wanted to have. Housing on post is decided based on rank and number of dependents. As a couple with no kids, we would have only been allowed a two bedroom and we felt we needed three bedrooms if for no other reason than to accommodate all of our furniture. The third bedroom also gave me a separate place to house my home office.
Also, we found that we could get more room off post than we could on post and not have any more out of pocket than we would have if we lived on post. I know quite a few people who were able to save a pretty penny by living off post and banking the difference between rent and their BAH. Of course, this could vary greatly from one duty station to the next but it was certainly true where we were stationed.
We enjoyed living off post as well because it gave us a sense of normalcy. We did have other military families that lived in our neighborhood but it wasn’t every single family on the block. At times, it was nice to be able to leave the military lifestyle behind and just at least pretend to be civilians on the weekends. This was especially true during block leave when we didn’t have plans to leave town. Living off post also made it easier for family and friends outside of the military to drop by to see us as well.
Whether to live on post or off post is a personal decision. You may find that certain locations are better for living on post while others are better for living off post. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons before you make your decision.