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Atsugi’s new housing rule doesn’t affect Navy spouse Rachel Beer. She and her husband live on base because they wanted an apartment that was close to base facilities and to his workplace and that would accept cats.
Atsugi’s new housing rule doesn’t affect Navy spouse Rachel Beer. She and her husband live on base because they wanted an apartment that was close to base facilities and to his workplace and that would accept cats. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — Atsugi recently began mandating that all newly arriving junior enlisted personnel eligible for two-bedroom base housing units either live on base or forfeit their overseas housing allowance.

The Oct. 1 policy change resulted from a recent quarterly housing review that showed 97 vacant units and 118 families that fit the profile to occupy the units, said Atsugi Housing Director Jeff Baulknight.

Atsugi has 336 housing units for enlisted personnel E-1 through E-6 in two on-base towers. The 97 vacant units come from one tower, Baulknight said. The other tower is completely empty for renovation, which is expected to be completed in February.

Baulknight said the decision saves the Navy money by “limiting the amount of OHA payments” and offers “a more convenient lifestyle for the families involved.”

To date, only a handful of families have been affected.

New arrival Rachel Beer and her husband, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason Beer, an aviation structural mechanic with Strike Fighter Squadron 27, said they wouldn’t have moved out in town either way.

“We were told that if we lived off base we could make a lot of money,” Rachel Beer said. “But it’s only my husband and I and two cats … so for us living on base is more convenient.”

According to Baulknight, commands used to determine whether a family should live on or off base, basing their decisions on factors such as “duty requirements and individual command requirements.”

Baulknight said everyone who arrived at Atsugi before Oct. 1 is “grandfathered” and can live off base penalty-free.

Newly arrived junior enlisted personnel don’t have that option. According to the policy statement, should a servicemember “decline available government housing, they will relinquish their Overseas Housing Allowance.”

As of last month, the OHA for an E-6 living in Atsugi with dependents can be as high as $1,894.59 per month.

“It’s a sensitive issue because it gives the impression that we are limiting housing options,” Baulknight said of the new policy.

But so far, he said, the only complaints received by his office have come from people who either didn’t read or didn’t understand the policy. “It only affects sailors with two dependents.”

Baulknight doesn’t expect the policy’s impact to begin to show for 24-36 months.

For current OHA rates, go to www.psapac.navy.mil

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