The average Basic Allowance for Housing will rise 3.8 percent in 2013, giving troops living off base their largest average increase in four years, defense officials said.
Yet rates will drop slightly in about one in five locations, a reflection of the continued slump in some local housing markets.
Among the biggest rate increases will go to airmen at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., where the average BAH will go up 14 percent compared with 2012 levels. Airmen at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., also will see a hike when their rates get bumped up an average of about 12 percent.
And aviators living near Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., outside Washington, D.C., will see their rates rise about 11 percent, as will soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines assigned to the cluster of installations on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
The Pentagon pays out about $20 billion in BAH each year to about 1 million individual troops.
Comparatively fewer locations are seeing declines in average rates in 2013, and most of the declines are relatively small.
The biggest drop is coming in Monterey, Calif., home to the Naval Postgraduate School, where the average BAH will fall 7.5 percent next year. Average rates will drop by 5 percent at Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms, Calif., and by 3.4 percent at Fort Stewart, Ga., defense officials say.
Changes in BAH rates will also affect the housing stipends provided to veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The stipends are based on BAH rates for E-5s with dependents in the ZIP codes where the schools are.
BAH rates are based on detailed market surveys of various types of housing in the hundreds of locations where the allowance is paid.
The allowance is designed to cover 100 percent of average rental costs for the type of housing that defense officials deem appropriate for various paygrades — apartments for younger troops, townhouses and detached homes for more senior personnel.
Defense officials always stress that no one "loses" money when BAH rates decline in certain areas from one year to the next.
Under a policy known as "individual rate protection," lower rates will apply only to troops who move into an affected area in 2013, on the assumption that survey data indicate the average cost of rental housing under new contracts has declined in those areas compared to last year. Personnel already assigned to those areas will see no cut in their BAH payments. However, all service members in locations where rates go up from one year to the next receive the increases.