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In February 2024 the Minister for Defence People and Families paused the rollout of a new accommodation offer to Service personnel after a backlash over plans to change entitlement to family housing from rank to need.

The Ministry of Defence says it will now review the elements of the plan relating to service family accommodation, and that other elements of the plan relating to encouraging home ownership and the use of private rental accommodation will proceed as planned from March 2024.

Originally known as the Future Accommodation Model (FAM), it has since become known as the new or modernised accommodation offer.

Origin and evolution of the accommodation offer

The Ministry of Defence launched a new accommodation offer to service personnel in September 2023. The offer had been under development since 2015 and is intended to modernise entitlement to service family accommodation, help personnel meet their aspirations for home ownership and offer private rental alternatives. The MOD surveyed personnel and ran pilots at three locations in the UK.

Subsidised accommodation is considered one of the main benefits of service life. This is because personnel are required to move frequently, lack choice over their location, and may live in relatively remote locations.

The new offer reflects some of the commitments made in the defence accommodation strategy, published in 2022. The Ministry of Defence committed to supporting personnel with subsidised housing, to help personnel buy their own property, to change the allocation of family accommodation to reflect need rather than rank and set a new minimum standard for single living accommodation.

Concerns about the changes

MPs and the Service Families Federations all raised concerns with the proposals early on in the scheme’s development (which were examined in a Commons Library briefing published in 2017).

With the proposed changes coming into effect from March 2024, media began reporting unhappiness among officers about the planned change in entitlement to family accommodation, specifically the change in allocation from rank to need, and the potential impact on retention of officers and experienced personnel. There were also concerns that an increase in demand will not be matched by an increase in service accommodation numbers. The MOD has proposed financial support for private rental alternatives if SFA is not available.

Rank over need

Under current rules, houses are allocated to personnel based on rank (with senior officers eligible for the largest houses) and marital status (those in long-term relationships with children may apply for available family accommodation but are not entitled to it). The new plan would see entitlement extended to those in long-term relationships and homes allocated according to need (for example the number of dependents) rather than seniority of rank.

Elements of the plan paused

On 26 February 2024 the Minister for Defence People and Families announced he would pause the rollout of elements of its new accommodation offer to service personnel and promised to undertake a review.

James Cartlidge, the Minister for Defence Procurement, told the Defence Committee that the decision to pause the rollout was “on the basis of the reaction we have had in recent days, particularly from Army officers and their families”.

It is not yet clear how long the review will take or when the results will be announced.

The Chief of Defence People told the Defence Committee [PDF] the MOD remains committed to opening up the entitlement to family accommodation to people in long-term relationships and those whose children primarily live elsewhere. The MOD estimates about 40,000 personnel are in long-term relationships [PDF] and about 5,000 have responsibility for non-resident children. The Chief of Defence People said his team will review whether their needs could be accommodated within the existing stock of houses.

Support for home ownership and private rental accommodation to continue

All other elements of the plan will be rolled out from March 2024 as planned. These include:

  • Supporting personnel become a first homeowner by refunding up to £1,500 of legal expenses.
  • Helping those who commute from their main home to their duty station by extending the waiver of single living accommodation charges to all personnel whose main home is over 50 miles away. This will remove current disparities between the services.
  • Setting a minimum standard for single living accommodation and identifying where investment is needed to bring accommodation up to that standard.

Concerns about the upkeep of service accommodation

This paper examines the evolution and key elements of the new accommodation offer and concerns raised by MPs and stakeholders. It does not address recent issues relating to the maintenance of and repairs to service family accommodation which are discussed in a separate Commons Library briefing. Nor does it cover issues concerning single living accommodation or the standard of accommodation, which will be discussed in forthcoming Library briefings.

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