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New Report Details Most and Least Affordable Housing Areas for Troops

(Photo: Flickr user Chris Dlugosz under the Creative Commons License.)
(Photo: Flickr user Chris Dlugosz under the Creative Commons License.)

Trulia is out with a new report detailing the most and least affordable housing areas for U.S. military troops and their families.

To coincide with Military Appreciation Month in May, the residential real estate site on Wednesday released a seven-page study on the topic, along with an interactive graphic that lets users explore housing costs in various locations in the continental U.S.

In general, the research shows that unmarried junior enlisted troops, those in the paygrades of E-1 through E-4, are more likely to find affordable rentals in small, rural towns than in coastal areas and top travel destinations -- with some exceptions -- while their higher-ranking counterparts, including non-commissioned officers and officers, are likely to find affordable homes in most geographic locations.

However, the picture changes dramatically for troops with spouses and families, according to the report.

"Although nationally, larger homes that can accommodate more people (up to four bedrooms) are on average 161 percent more expensive than studios or one-bedroom apartments, those with dependents only get a 28-31 percent increase in their housing stipend -- regardless of the number of dependents they have," states a press release accompanying the report.

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Affordable is defined as the percentage of listings on Trulia whose monthly costs are lower than 75 percent of the military housing stipend for that area, according to the release.

In a telephone interview with Military.com, Mark Uh, Trulia's lead data scientist on the study, said military members on average move every two to three years -- far more frequently than residents in the general population. What's more, he said, those with families don't receive a bigger housing allowance with more children.

"Having dependents obviously increases the amount of space you need and the amount of money you'll be spending," he said. "We find that the housing stipend doesn't increase as much to account for that increase in spending.

"Those who have just one child receive the same exact stipend as those who have three children," he added. "There's a bit of inconsistency there and you have to keep all that in mind when you're planning where to live and whether you're planning to have a bigger family. There are these nuances in terms of what you can afford."

The ten most affordable military housing areas for singles in the junior-enlisted ranks are Fresno, California; Beaumont, Texas; Albany, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Huntsville, Alabama; Toledo, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Lemoore Naval Air Station, California; Abilene/Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; and Terre Haute, Indiana, according to the report.

The ten most expensive locations for singles in the junior-enlisted ranks are San Luis Obispo, California, located between San Francisco and Los Angeles; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Bangor, Maine; Twenty Nine Palms Marine Corps Base, California; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Maui County, Hawaii; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Santa Fe/Los Alamos, New Mexico; and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, according to Trulia.

Meanwhile, the ten most affordable military housing areas for E-7 troops with dependents are Rock Island, Illinois; Saginaw, Michigan; Terre Haute, Indiana; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; County Cost Group 550; Brunswick, Maine; Cincinnati; and Youngstown, Ohio, according to the research.

The ten most expensive locations for E-7 troops with dependents are Quantico/Woodbridge, Virginia; Ventura, California; Warrenton, Virginia; San Francisco; Stockton, California; Edwards Air Force Base/Palmdale, California; Santa Clara County, California; Florida Keys, Florida; Fayetteville, Arkansas; and Santa Fe/Los Alamos, New Mexico, according to Trulia.

"Despite the usual housing stipend being fairly generous, affordability can vary quite dramatically depending on where you are based, what pay grade you are in, and whether or not you have dependents," the report states.

"No two military housing areas are created equally when it comes to affordability," it states, "and military members should pay close attention to how much money they could receive and where they should live."

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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