The Decision: Living On or Off Base

There comes a time when military members and their families face the question of whether to live in or independent of military housing. Seeing as there are perks and downfalls to each option, you may need to spend some time weighing your options before you decide. Also be sure to research the specific base and the surrounding areas, amenities and neighborhoods vary widely from place to place.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of both according to other military members and their families:

Military Housing



 Living the military lifestyle comes with a lot of challenges for both the service member and their family. Never having a definite schedule, changing locations and evolving communities are just a few.

Any convenience is welcomed. Here are a few offered by military housing:

    • Proximity to work for service member—can save gas and time
    • Quick access to the Commissary, BX, PX, and other military resources
    • Don’t have to worry about utilities (though you do pay internet and cable)


Anyone who has been recently inducted to the military lifestyle or experienced a deployment knows that having people for support is important.

Proximity to others that are in the same situation or have been in your situation

You can usually rely on the base to be safe and you do not have to worry about being in a “bad neighborhood”



While military families form strong bonds throughout the military community, sometimes we all need our space.

Housing is assigned based on family size and need; by now you should know what “assigned” means. It means that once you get it, there is not much you can do to change it.

There are no guarantees that your assignment will be accommodating enough for your family to fit comfortably and there is little to no choice on preference for layout or design of a home

Sometimes military bases are closed when the space isn’t necessary anymore. Military families get relocated to others, meaning the formed community may get split. (This refers specifically to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission that occurred in 2005)


Sometimes you just want to get away from work and the people you know to just relax and be. When you’re living where you work, that doesn’t happen.

Independent Housing


Sense of Freedom:

Military service members get to go home and feel relief from being watched by their leaders and fellow service members. They also get to escape their work for a bit.

Housing Options:

 With standardized housing, there isn’t much choice in regards to amenities and size. Off base, you have options.

    • You can choose the size of house to best fit your family needs
    • Housing on base may be outdated in regards to appliances and style, you can choose more up-to-date options and pick your preference of location, neighborhood, schools, layout, size, you name it!
    • You can personalize your home with décor and home improvements as you wish (if you rent you many still have some restrictions)

Basic Allowance for Housing:

Military members and their families can receive BAH to compensate for living costs based on location, pay and dependency status.


Loss of Military “Feel”:

While it’s nice to break away from work and relax, some military families mention how they miss the sound of PT in the morning as well as the community vibe on base.

Loss of Convenience:

If you forget to pick something up at the commissary, it may no longer be a quick walk or drive to pick it up—same with military support groups and events and the commute to work can be an issue as well.

Photo courtesy USACE Europe District