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New Housing Allowance Plan Creates Financial Hardships for Soldiers

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FAYETTEVILLE — Young soldiers are getting a boost in their housing allowance, but the increase comes as an expense to military members who have served several years in the armed forces.

U.S. Department of Defensecame up with a new housing allowance plan for people who live in civilian communities, but not everyone will benefit. Apache Pilot Cameron Ylitalo and his family live in a Fayetteville neighborhood not far from Fort Bragg.

As a Chief Warrant Officer, he receives $691 for his housing allowance. But starting in January, soldiers arriving to Fort Bragg with his same rank will receive $73 less.

"The higher standard of living put a person in a position where they are going to have to sacrifice some things," Ylitalo says.

Under a new plan, theDepartment of Defenseis reallocating housing allowances from higher ranks to lower ranks, and from areas with lower costs of living to higher ones.

For example, a young army private will now receive $536, an increase of $52 to live off post; a lieutenant colonel will receive $715 a month, more than $200 less.

"A guy here before January 1 is in fact making $200 more than the guy who arrived after January 1," says Lt. Col. Bob Roome of the 126th Financial Battalion. "To some people that's not fair, they are doing the same work and are working just as hard and making less money."

With waiting lists for housing on post up to a year long, more service members live in city neighborhoods. The new pay plan is part of a long-term goal for the military to pay for off-base housing as it does on-base housing.

Local realtors worry the changes could effect the housing market.

"Ten percent of the population will buy or rent less expensive homes," says realtor Bob Measamer.

Because of complaints to his office, Congressman Robin Hayes has asked William Cohen, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, to take another look at the plan. Hayes says it is causing financial hardship to soldiers the military is trying to retain.