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Subsidised accommodation is considered a key part of the ‘offer’ given to serving personnel. It reflects the unique nature of service life – the need to be mobile, the lack of choice in location and accommodation and the remoteness of some bases.

However fewer than half of regular personnel are satisfied with the overall standard of their accommodation, a nine percentage point drop from 2015. The three Service Families Federations say accommodation is by far the top issue reported to them by personnel.

The Public Accounts Committee reported on Service Family Accommodation in July 2016. The Committee concluded Service Families “have been badly let down for many years” and are not getting the accommodation service they “have a right to expect”.

In addition, the Committee warned the Ministry of Defence is “underestimating the effect of poor and unsuitable accommodation on morale and on attitudes to remaining in the armed services”. This concern has been echoed by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, the body responsible for advising the Government on charging levels for accommodation, which has scrutinised accommodation-related issues in its annual reports. Ann-Marie Trevelyan MP has described the situation as a crisis and warned it is a “real and present danger” to retention.

What is Service Accommodation?

The Armed Forces Covenant says Service accommodation should be of “good quality, affordable and suitably located.”

There are two main types:

  • Single Living Accommodation
  • Service Family Accommodation

Three-quarters of regular personnel live in one of the two during the working week.

Armed Forces personnel entitlement to Service housing is dependent upon their circumstances. Single or married but unaccompanied personnel are entitled to Single Living Accommodation at their duty station. This can take the form of communal or individual rooms. Married/civil partnered personnel or personnel who are widowed, divorced or separated with dependent children are entitled to Service Families Accommodation.

Three main concerns: rent, repairs and future plans

There are three clear areas of concern about accommodation: a new charging system, repair/maintenance provision, and concerns over future plans for accommodation. All of these issues were debated in the Commons or were the subject of reports by the Public Accounts Committee, the Defence Committee and the National Audit Office during the 2015-17 Parliament.

New rental charging system

81% of service families living in Service Families Accommodation will pay more rent under the new charging system introduced in 2016. The previous system was considered unfit for purpose but various issues have been identified with the new system including a lack of clarity over the assessment and grading of similar properties, a complex appeals process and concerns over the impact of rents on families’ finances.

Repairs and maintenance

CarillionAmey was contracted to provide repairs and maintenance for Service Family Accommodation in 2014. The company’s performance “fell below the contracted level” in 2015 and media reported stories of soldiers living in “squalid” homes. The Defence Secretary intervened in early 2016 to demand improvements and Ministers have warned they will terminate the contract if CarillionAmey does not consistently perform. Less than a third of personnel are satisfied with the response to requests and the quality of maintenance/repair work.[

Repairs/maintenance issues have largely focused on Service Family Accommodation but there also appears to be growing dissatisfaction with the quality of Single Living Accommodation.

Repairs/maintenance issues have largely focused on Service Family Accommodation but there also appears to be growing dissatisfaction with the quality of Single Living Accommodation.

Future accommodation plans

The Ministry of Defence is developing a Future Accommodation Model (FAM) which it says will be fairer and more financially sustainable. The key themes are changing allocation principle from rank to need; encourage home ownership and facilitate private renting.

However the Service Families Federations report unease among service families about the FAM, in particular the potential reduction in availability of Service Family Accommodation and the insecurity that comes with private renting.

Leasing arrangement renegotiation in 2021

This is not an issue that has been raised by personnel but has been highlighted by some MPs.

The Ministry of Defence sold the majority of its Service Family Accommodation to a company called Annington Homes Ltd in 1996. The Ministry of Defence then leases back the accommodation it requires, at a discount of 58% of open-market rents. This discount is up for review in 2021 and the National Audit Office has warned that a failure to secure a similar discount could “exacerbate the funding shortfall in the Department’s budget”.

The rent paid by the Ministry of Defence to Annington Homes is entirely separate to the charges paid by Service personnel for their accommodation.

Housing options for Veterans

Commons Library Briefing Paper Housing options for serving and ex-military personnel (excluding service accommodation) (England) provides an overview of the housing options available to serving and ex-military personnel in England. It includes information on home ownership, private renting, homelessness assistance and applying on the housing register for veterans.

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