Accommodation in the Armed Forces is always a concern for serving personnel and the types of housing and locations available at many military locations is quite limited.
The ability to provide modern-living accommodation to single soldiers and service families has been a point of contention for years, amid accusations some housing was sub-standard and not well-maintained.
In light of this, the Defence Secretary and Chancellor have jointly announced new funding of £200 million to improve Armed Forces housing.
The money will be used to improve and renovate thousands of homes used by more than 5,000 personnel and their families.
Some of the funding will also be used to upgrade approximately 3,500 service homes as single living quarters.
For some, the current accommodation system can prove problematic, with patch housing only available to those who are married, while unmarried personnel have, until recently, been unable to live in subsidised accommodation with partners.
To improve the quality of living for those who serve, the Ministry of Defence has introduced the Future Accommodation Model (FAM).
Now, The British Army is trialling a pilot scheme to assess future housing needs of personnel.
The pilot scheme will be rolled out for testing at three locations over the next three years. A decision will be made whether this is introduced across the UK once the pilot is complete.
Where Are The Three Locations And Dates For The FAM Pilot?
The first FAM pilot was launched at HM Naval Base Clyde, Scotland, in September 2019. More than 3,000 sailors, submariners and Royal Marines based at Faslane are part of the pilot study.
At the end of January, the British Army launched the FAM pilot in Aldershot. Soldiers are being offered the choice of remaining in existing service accommodation, subsidising rent in the private sector, or even financial assistance to buy their own properties.
The Royal Air Force will launch a pilot at RAF Wittering at the end of May.
What Is Problematic About The Current System?
The current accommodation model is based on rank rather than actual need and many personnel find they have to opt-out of subsidised accommodation because it does not support their family’s requirements.
It can prove expensive to run with large overheads and repair needs and a significant number of houses are kept empty in order to facilitate personnel who need to move around.
Some suggest it is restrictive and can prove problematic for single-serving personnel and those who are unmarried with partners and children.
What Will FAM Provide?
The newer, modern model aims to give people more choice with who and where they can live and not restrict people to service housing - giving single people the option of being able to live with friends and unmarried personnel the option to live with long-term partners at subsidised rates.
The subsidies will be based on need instead of rank and relationship status, and the changes will allow personnel more freedom to decide which options are best for them.
What Are The Current Service Accommodation Options?
Single Living Accommodation (SLA)/Substitute Single Service Accommodation (SSSA)
Service Family Accommodation (SFA)/Substitute Service Family Accommodation (SSFA)
These options will still be available under FAM.
What Are Some Concerns About the FAM?
There are concerns about the new FAM model and the financial implications it will have on serving personnel and whether it will affect eligibility for certain benefits such as the Continuation of Education Allowance (CEA) and commuting costs.
For many who live on the ‘patch’, the support of other dependents while their serving spouse is away on deployment is vital, and FAM raises questions about whether its roll-out will lead to families becoming isolated.
There are concerns about whether the new model will affect unit cohesion and camaraderie and the security of military personnel living in civilian areas will need to be addressed.
A sudden influx of personnel buying/renting in areas close to military camps could also impact on local house prices.
What Are The Options Available Under The FAM?
SLA and SFA should still be available at pilot sites but if not, substituted accommodation (SSSA or SSFA) will be offered.
There is financial support available towards maintenance costs and mortgage payments, dependent on eligibility criteria. This also includes the refund of legal expenses.
Established Long Term Relationships LTR(E)
Under the FAM pilot, there is an entitlement to subsidised accommodation for those in established long term relationships (LTR)(E). For those not in a pilot area, present accommodation rules state this option is only available on a surplus basis.
(LTR)(E) status must be recorded on JPA and to qualify, couples must be able to prove they have been in an established relationship for 365 days or more.
Anyone with dependent children (theirs or LTR(E)’s partners) that are resident for over 80 days per year you could be eligible for additional support.
Physical Adaption Support
Adapted SFA and SLA will be provided but any adaption requirements needed in the PRS will not be paid for by the Ministry of Defence.
So What Happens Now?
The pilot will run in the test sites for three years and a decision will be made following a review.