Variable Housing Allowances (VHA)

VHA is paid to service members residing in high-cost housing areas in the United States. VHA is usually based upon your pay grade, dependency status and duty station location.

In certain circumstances, SECNAV has the authority to pay VHA based on the location of your family members. VHA rates are established based upon your reported housing expenses in the VHA survey.

These expenses include rent (or rental equivalency for homeowners), insurance, utilities and maintenance expenses. The accuracy of the rates for VHA depends upon the data received from you in the VHA survey.

VHA is paid in a locality when the local median housing cost exceeds 80 percent of national median housing costs (NMHC). VHA plus BAQ was intended to provide 85 percent of the NMHC, while you paid an out-of-pocket amount equal to 15 percent of the NMHC. However, BAQ rate changes tied to base pay increases have caused housing allowances to lag behind housing cost increases, resulting in a median out-of-pocket expense of approximately 20 percent of NMHC.

VHA offset. The VHA offset program became effective March 1, 1986. Your housing allowances for BAQ and VHA are compared to your actual housing expenses. If your allowances exceed the expenses, your VHA is reduced by an amount equal to one-half of the difference, not to exceed the total VHA. All VHA may be lost but no BAQ can be lost.

VHA Rate Protection. Part of the FY96 Defense Authorization Act, VHA rate protection became effective Feb. 10, 1997. It protects your VHA rate from being reduced as a result of systematic change in the annual VHA rate table. Your VHA shall not be reduced from one year to the next unless there has been a break in your eligibility to receive VHA within the military housing area or your certified housing costs are reduced.

VHA Locality Floor. Included in the FY97 Authorization Act, VHA locality floor is the minimum VHA rate set for each pay grade for each MHA. If you don’t have family members, the VHA locality floor is equal to 85 percent of the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) fair market rent (FMR) for a one bedroom apartment. If you have family members, the floor is equal to HUD’s FMR for a two bedroom apartment. If VHA survey data indicate the VHA rates will be below the floor amount, you will receive the VHA floor amount. If the surveys indicate the VHA rates should be higher than the VHA floor, you will receive the higher amount.