Strickland offers to ensure every service member has a home package – The Suburban Times
Announcement from the office of Rep. Marilyn Strickland.
On April 21, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) introduced a package of bills aimed at improving access and affordability for our men and women in uniform. This package, Ensure Every Serviceman Has a Home, contains four separate but related bills – the BAH Restoration Act, the BAH Calculation Improvement Act, the Increase in Home Ownership Act and for the Military and law on the construction of more housing for the military. These bills are intended to ensure that our service members and their families have access to affordable housing, whether they are in the South Sound stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord or serving across the country. Strickland, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, introduced this package of bills to build on stakeholder and community input the congresswoman has received since taking office in January 2021.
“With rising housing costs and supply shortages in the South Sound and across the country, many of our service members and their families are unable to access safe and affordable housing,” said Strickland. “The Ensuring Every Military Member Has a Home package focuses on four elements to address this housing crisis and provide options for our military members. Through their brave service, our nation’s military members have a right to be housed in a safe and adequate way. It is the responsibility of Congress to ensure that we can provide them with this opportunity.
“Due to the pandemic and runaway inflation, the housing market has undergone dramatic changes, exacerbating the challenges faced by military families during PCS moves,” said Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Retired), President and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America. “We are pleased to see the introduction of legislation that resolves the issues of calculating current housing allowances to keep pace with rapid market changes that are causing many military families to pay over $200 of their pocket for accommodation costs.”
“Maintaining the vitality of BAH is crucial to maintaining financial readiness and improving the quality of life for service members,” said Air Force Sergeants Association executive director Keith A. Reed. “Especially over the past season of PCS, service members and their families have been negatively impacted due to volatile market conditions and a lack of available and affordable housing. The various measures advocated by Congresswoman Strickland would restore BAH to its just 100% coverage and provide increased access to affordable housing in underserved areas. AFSA is proud to support each of these bills and calls on all members of Congress to support their rapid codification into public law.
“Comprehensive and accurate Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) is a necessity for the economic well-being of service members and families,” said Brittany Dymond, associate director of the National Veterans of Foreign Wars Legislative Service. “As housing costs continue to soar and budgets are stretched, it is imperative that BAH not only reflects local market rents, but is also paid to beneficiaries in full, not in part. The VFW commends Rep. Strickland for her attention to this issue by introducing the BAH Calculation Improvement Act and the BAH Restoration Act which together would ensure that BAH is correctly calculated and paid to beneficiaries at the rate of 100%.
“Through our research, MFAN learns directly from military families what they value in a home and why they choose to live where they live. Compared to their civilian counterparts, our data consistently shows that service members and their families are disproportionately impacted by housing barriers such as availability, affordability, affordability, and poor living conditions,” said Shannon Razsadin, president and executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN). “We commend Rep. Strickland and her colleagues for introducing legislation that would bring transparency and oversight to the process and, more importantly, provide solutions for affected military families living on and off base.”
“Our research has shown that housing costs have been a major source of financial stress for military families for years, that the Basic Housing Allowance has not been sufficient to cover out-of-pocket costs, and these concerns have only worsened during the current housing crisis,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO and Chair of the Board, Blue Star Families. “In response, we recommended restoring BAH to cover 100% of housing costs and asked the DoD to consider issues such as school district quality and housing availability when calculating BAH. We are pleased to support legislation that will advance these recommendations and make life easier for thousands of military families.
Service members are eligible for a Basic Housing Allowance (BAH), which is intended to provide fair housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets in the United States. BAH rates are based on local rental market data, varying by geographic duty station, pay grade and dependent status. The Department of Defense hires a contractor to survey rental markets each year, researching the median rent and utilities for six different property types. This system often lags behind dynamic changes in the housing market, especially in areas like the South Sound and Western Washington where there is a significant housing crisis.
To address this crisis, MP Strickland is introducing four bills.
- The Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) Restoration Act – This bill will help service members and their families make ends meet by restoring the full BAH allowance. In fiscal year 2015, Congress amended BAH so that the Department could impose cost sharing on the military.
- The BAH Calculation Enhancement Act – This bill would require the department to review the effectiveness and efficiency of current BAH rates, determine whether BAH should be calculated more often, whether school districts can be included in the calculations of the BAH and if there is an algorithm, the department can develop that would be more efficient. Given the amount of publicly available rental market data, it is high time for the Department to examine alternative, more responsive and transparent means of calculating BAH.
- Increasing Home Ownership for Service Members Act – This bill would direct the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study to investigate barriers to home ownership for members of the armed forces. With frequent moves and other potential hurdles, the opportunity to own a home and create a family legacy is out of reach for many service members.
- Building More Military Housing Act – This bill is intended to incentivize private developers and on-base housing providers to build more housing designed for military members, especially those with lower incomes. The bill establishes several pilot and direct subordinate programs to encourage housing construction. These pilot programs include using the Rental Partnership Program as a tenant insurance program for developers, a joint pilot program with the Departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development to provide financial incentives for the development of housing for low-income military and civilians, and a joint grant program with the Department of Defense and Housing and Urban Development administered by the local Defense Community Partnerships Office for developers to build housing. The bill would also direct the Ministry of Defense to study the feasibility of acquiring properties for housing development near facilities facing shortages.
U.S. Representative Marilyn Strickland serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is the only African-American woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee. She is a member of the New Democrat Coalition, is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress, and the first African-American elected to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.