(OTTAWA) The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is launching a new housing allowance that a senior commander says will better help troops struggling to find affordable housing while saving millions of dollars each year.
The Canadian Forces Housing Differential Allowance will supplement the income of members who must live and work in areas of the country where rental costs are high.
This includes Canadian Forces Base Comox on Vancouver Island, where some members recently learned they can contact Habitat for Humanity if they have trouble finding housing.
The new allowance is due to come into effect on July 1 and will replace the already existing one called the Differential Cost of Living Allowance (CDLI), which was intended to offset the cost of living and working in particularly expensive communities.
Unlike this allowance, whose rates have been frozen since 2009, the new housing allowance will be linked to salary to help those who need it most, said Brigadier-General Virginia Tattersall, director general of compensation and benefits. of the Army.
The result is that thousands of members who are not currently eligible for the IDVC allowance will start receiving the housing allowance, while thousands more will see their IDVC money cut off – with a net saving of about 30 million per year.
“This benefit allows us to be fair and really care for those who need it most. That’s why it’s the junior ranks that will benefit more than the senior ranks,” Ms. Tattersall said in an interview.
She added that the goal is to ensure that no member is forced to spend more than 25-35% of their monthly salary on rent. An outside company has been hired to assess average rental prices near the bases.
Online forums for military personnel are full of stories and complaints from members of the Armed Forces about the lack of affordable housing near the military bases where they are required to work.
The problem is exacerbated by the cyclical nature of military postings, as troops are regularly required to move from one part of the country to another due to operational demands and career progression.
Younger and less experienced members face a particularly difficult time in some communities such as Comox, Victoria and Halifax, where housing is extremely limited or expensive.
There is also a critical housing shortage on bases, with thousands of service members and their families currently on waiting lists as promises to build new housing are largely stalled in neutral.
To alleviate the problem, the local base commander at CFB Esquimalt near Victoria began letting new sailors live in their training quarters for months after their initial training was completed.
The focus on housing rather than the overall cost of living reflects the major disparity in living costs in different parts of the country, Tattersall said, unlike in the past when cost disparities were much larger.
“The cost of living itself is relatively even across the country; the only thing that stands out is the cost of housing, or the affordability of housing,” she pointed out.
“And that’s why we’ve focused the benefits on this issue, because that seems to be the real challenge for our members,” she added.
Tying the new housing assistance to wages will allow those who are really struggling to receive the help they need while reducing expenses, the general continued. Members of the Armed Forces living in military housing will also not be eligible.
The new housing allowance will cost around 150 million per year, compared to 180 million for the IDVC allowance.
Ms. Tattersall explained that it was necessary to find the right balance in terms of supporting members, it was also necessary to ensure that the funding envelope that had been authorized was respected.
The military estimates that about 28,000 Armed Forces members will qualify for the new housing allowance, which is about 6,300 more than those currently receiving the IDVC.
However, approximately 7,700 members who were receiving the existing allocation will be cut. While the military says most of them already live in military housing or have higher salaries, the move is likely to spark complaints.