I recently got an email from a woman whose husband had just enlisted in the Navy. She said that she enjoyed reading my blog (hooray!) and wanted to know if my husband and I chose to live on base and why or why wouldn't we? It made me reexamine the decision the Sailor and I made after we got engaged (what feels like forever ago). Why did we chose civilian housing instead of military housing?
If you know me, you know that I'm very Type A and I love to make lists. So that's what I did. Here's my pro/con list for military housing:
1. Easy to Find - If you are new to an area and have no idea where to start looking for a place to live, military housing/base housing can be a great option! It's easy to figure out a list for your location and they're government approved ;)
2. Great sense of community - I think it's a no-brainer that military families and spouses band together. You all know what each other is going through, and you're part of the small percentage of Americans that can sympathize. You are much more likely to have friendly neighbors because they already know some of your backstory.
3. Great for support - Again, everyone around you already knows what it's like to be a military spouse. So they're ready to support you! They've done the deployments, long nights, homecomings, every up and down you can think of, and they're here to get you through them as well.
4. Easier payment process - This may seem trivial, but if you are thinking about a million other things, you may forget to pay your rent on time. Or forget that your mortgage takes a few days to process so by the time you pay it, it counts as late. Military housing is way easier! They just take it out automatically, without you having to think about it.
5. Can be more cost effective - Now, this is mostly hearing from couples with kids, but they've said that it is cheaper to live in large military community houses than it is to find a house in the civilian world with the same number of rooms/same amount of space. After buying our house in Virginia Beach, I totally get it.
6. Good way to make military friends - Just like I said in #2 and #3, the people in your community know what it's like to be in your position and they are no strangers to your lifestyle. You can make some amazing friends, from all walks of life, that will be there for you no matter if one of you moves to another country or state.
1. Limited options - This doesn't mean that there is only one neighborhood or community that you can live in, but instead of picking from a few neighborhoods that the military allows, there are civilian apartments and houses everywhere that you can live in.
2. Sometimes in bad parts of town - I have been to some really lovely, gorgeous military communities that are in the absolute worst parts of towns. If I was looking at an apartment in that area, I would have turned the other way and ran. I'm not really sure why these locations were chosen, maybe it is because the land was cheaper. For whatever reason, not all of these really great housing communities have a just as great surrounding area.
3. Not saving money - I'm a saver. I'll say that right now. I don't like wasting money and always like to find ways to save. One of those large ways without too much effort was living outside of military housing. If you find a place to live that costs less than your housing allowance, you can keep that money and put it towards something else, whether it be bills or savings or food.
4. Long waiting lists - This is something I have heard from friends, that if you want to change housing or sometimes even get into housing, there can be months and months of waiting until you actually get approved/get to move in.
5. Can be far from jobs - If you're like me and don't plan on working within the military community, some of those housing options can be really far away from parts of the city where you will be working. This can differ for many people and doesn't apply to spouses that don't plan on or won't be working.
After weighing these, the Sailor and I decided to live in a civilian apartment for our first year and then go from there. Two large deciding factors for me were the saving money, especially as a newly married couple, and the distance from potential jobs. I didn't have a job when I moved up here, but I ended up finding one that happened to be about an hour away from the base. Our first apartment and our current house are between the base in Norfolk and my job in Virginia Beach, so it works out pretty well.
Housing is different for everyone. Every family is different and what works for us won't necessarily work for you. Or you may think all of my cons are actually pros! Housing is tricky though, so my best advice is to sit down and talk with your spouse (maybe make a list??) and see what works best for your family.