The news from our nation's capital this summer served as a sobering reminder of the hardships our service members face.
In June, the Senate passed a version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would hurt the critical Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) program, which covers military members’ rental expenses in areas where government quarters aren’t provided.
Fortunately, the Senate’s bill is still a long way from becoming law. The legislation highlights the enormous strain that those who serve our country all too often face, and it gives the multifamily industry the opportunity to examine its commitment to improving the lives of our men and women in uniform.
Simply put, with their formidable resources and talent, apartment owners and operators have the chance to make a tremendous difference in the lives of military members and their families. But making that difference is about more than just offering discounted rents, although that’s helpful, of course.
It’s about contributing a company’s time and talents on an ongoing basis to help servicemen and -women. It’s about being truly embedded within the military community and taking an active role in addressing its issues.
Sadly, securing quality housing can place a real financial burden on military members and their families. If the Senate’s bill were to become law—the House’s version of the bill didn’t contain the BAH changes, and the Obama administration opposes the adjustments—that burden could grow even heavier for some.
The bill would reduce the eligible combined BAH benefits for married military members. Additionally, service members would be reimbursed only for what they actually pay in rent, effectively decreasing their already modest income. Currently, military members receive BAH payments as a flat amount each; if their rent is cheaper than the payment, they may use the remaining money for other vital expenses.
Considering the already precarious financial position of many of those in uniform and possible future reductions in BAH benefits, apartment communities should participate in the military’s Rental Partnership Program. The program allows service personnel from a nearby installation to receive a number of benefits, including discounted rents for their homes as well as the waiving of security deposits, application fees, and other administrative and amenity fees. Military members also can have their rent payments taken directly from their paychecks.
At ROSS Management Services, our communities near Fort Myer, Fort Meade, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Andrews Air Force Base in the Washington, D.C., area participate in the Rental Partnership Program.
While this is a great start, multifamily companies can’t let their efforts to aid military members end there. To truly help the military service community, we need to be there for them in other ways, as well.
ROSS has a partnership with Fisher House, an organization that provides housing for military families when their loved ones are hospitalized for sickness or injury. Over the years, we’ve consistently made financial donations to Fisher House, and our team members have regularly participated in community service events to help the organization.
So Many Chances to Help
Fisher House is but one of countless military-related organizations that would greatly benefit from the time, effort, and talents of the multifamily industry. Other worthy institutions include the Wounded Warrior Project, which aids veterans who suffered service-related injuries on or after Sept. 11, 2001; the USO, which helps military personnel around the world stay connected with their families and home; and Homes for Our Troops, which builds houses for severely injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Regardless of which military organizations you choose to partner with and how your firm goes about aiding those organizations, the important thing is to make helping military members part of your company’s culture—and to do it on a regular basis.
Apartment owners and operators can do more than simply house service members at a discount. Volunteer. Donate money. And advocate against policies that make it more difficult for military members to access quality housing.
By working hard to improve the lives of current military personnel and veterans, the multifamily industry can make those who’ve sacrificed so much for our country feel supported and truly at home, regardless of where they choose to reside.