Comparison of Defense Department's Methods for Providing Military Family Housing

Gao ID: T-NSIAD-90-30 April 20, 1990

GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) use of housing allowances and construction programs to provide military family housing. GAO noted that DOD effectively used housing allowances to help military members obtain family housing in local private markets, since: (1) it could provide a basic grade-specific allowance and variable supplements to equalize cost-of-housing differences among geographic areas; (2) it could adjust allowances to respond to staffing growth or decline; (3) members paid some out-of-pocket costs; and (4) the allowances offered members a greater selection of housing options. GAO also noted that: (1) as an alternative to building its own housing, DOD could lease newly constructed housing from private developers through its Section 801 projects or guarantee private developers 97-percent occupancy through its Section 802 projects; (2) although construction programs typically involved inflexible long-term commitments, they presented such advantages as guaranteeing housing in high-demand markets and enhancing the emergency availability of members; (3) the services sometimes failed to properly justify their housing construction needs before committing to costly long-term procurements; (4) DOD will pay more than $1.7 billion in rent, in addition to maintenance and utility costs, under the 20-year leases of 8,823 authorized Section 801 housing projects; (5) Section 801 projects could be more expensive than military construction projects; (6) the services overstated Section 801 funding needs; and (7) DOD did not currently have any Section 802 projects.

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