MOD FAQs on new accommodation offer

This page is hosting the MOD’s FAQs for the New Accommodation Roadshows – these responses are direct from the MOD and are not written by AFF.

The list of FAQs will be updated by MOD after each roadshow to ensure that they are as up to date as possible.

Key messages:

  • From March 2024, the MOD will begin introducing a new accommodation offer for our Armed Forces. Some of the changes will be available immediately whilst others may only apply to you when you are assigned to a new role, when your personal circumstances change, or at the end of the three-year transition period.
  • The New Accommodation Offer will modernise accommodation entitlements, improve the standard of Single Living Accommodation, update the Overseas Accommodation Offer and, overall, give our people more of a say in how they live.
  • The development and design of the policy has been informed by research and engagement with Service personnel and families, including through a three-year pilot which led to changes to the policy and how it is implemented.

Contents

01   Roadshow key questions

How can I evidence that I am in a long-term relationship?

The new offer gives Service personnel in an established long-term relationship (LTR(E)) entitlement to family accommodation. Validation of the relationship is the responsibility of Unit HR, based on the Service person providing evidence as set out in policy.

At the moment, evidencing an LTR(E) is in accordance with JSP 464 Vol 1 Part 1 para 0116-0117 but the criteria and validation process is under review within the Defence People Team so may change in future. Anyone currently in a long-term relationship who wishes to take advantage of the new offer is encouraged to register the relationship on JPA.

How is the MOD defining ‘need’ in the needs-based offer?

As is already the case for all ranks up to Warrant Officer, the size of family accommodation entitlement will be based on the size of the Service person’s immediate family. The definition of immediate family will be largely unchanged from current policy with the additional recognition of children who are not resident with the Service person but visit for at least 80 nights a year.

The starting entitlement for a Service person in a relationship and/or with one child will be a two-bed home, and an additional bedroom for each subsequent child up to a four-bed home. This is an enhancement over the current offer where other ranks with three young children would only be entitled to a three-bed home.

What if my needs-based entitlement doesn’t give me what I want?

The entitlement is the starting point but, where availability allows, personnel will have flexibility to choose a property that is one above or below their entitlement if they feel that would suit their family better. This gives flexibility to request a home with a spare bedroom for visitors, or for older children to continue living with the family.

Is this an erosion of the offer for Officers?

Accommodation is provided to support mobility and deliver operational capability. The new accommodation offer is intended to be fairer for all whilst also making best use of the SFA estate to support the widening of family accommodation to personnel in established long-term relationships.

Not all officers live in SFA, and some that do don’t necessarily want a large house if they are living there without children. However, we recognise there will be some who feel worse off under the new offer. To mitigate the impact of this, there will be a three-year period of transitional protection for personnel losing rank-based entitlements. During this period, those personnel will continue to be entitled to a similar size home as before, and data will be gathered on their experience, including any impact on retention, to inform future policy decisions. Once transitional protection ends, these personnel, like all others, will have the flexibility to choose a property that is above their new entitlement where availability allows.

It should also be noted that accommodation is not a ‘reward’ for rank as that would make it a taxable benefit – given the size of the accommodation subsidy, this could have significant consequences, particularly for higher-rate taxpayers.

What will be the impact of mixed patches and removing Officer and Other Rank SFA ‘types’?

When applying for family accommodation, personnel will generally be able to see the properties available to them at, above and below entitlement. Different SFA ‘types’ will still exist and have different charges, but personnel will not be restricted to set types by rank and two personnel choosing the same SFA type will pay the same charge whatever their rank.

Mixed rank patches already exist successfully in many locations across the three services and families are expected to live side by side as good neighbours whatever their rank. Where appropriate, there will still be local management of the SFA estate to consider command relationships.

Will it cost more to rent than using SFA?

Where SFA is near capacity, the MOD will make use of the private rental sector. Where possible, Service personnel will be given their preference for renting or SFA, but there may be some places where SFA is not available when a family needs it. Because of this, it is important to make the experience in SFA and private rental as comparable as possible.

Service personnel will be given financial support to address the costs of securing and leaving a rental agreement. They will also receive a monthly contribution towards rent. This rental payment will be set to take account of local rents, council tax and rental inflation so that the average property, at entitlement, for the area should cost the Service person around the same as CAAS Band B for the equivalent SFA entitlement. The Service person then has flexibility to rent a home above or below that benchmark depending on what works best for them.

In addition to financial support, practical support and advice will be given by the new Accommodation Support Cell. Unit HR, the chain of command, Housing Colonels, Families Federations and Hives will also all be on hand to support Service personnel.

Will the best SFA be filled by less-mobile personnel, disadvantaging the most mobile?

Defence offers subsidised accommodation to all Regular and FTRS (Full Commitment) Service personnel to support mobility. As with current policy, SP assigned to a new location are expected to reapply for family accommodation. If they wish to remain in their current home and that property is in line with their entitlement then, if availability allows, they may be able to stay. However, DIO will continue to manage and allocate the SFA stock based on demand and availability to ensure it adequately supports the most mobile SP.

Who has been involved in developing and approving the new policy?

The accommodation team contains a range of Serving, ex-Serving and civilian personnel. This includes people who live or have lived in SLA and SFA as either a Service person or spouse. The new offer has been informed by research with Service personnel and developed over many years in collaboration with all of the Front-Line Commands and other stakeholders including the Service Families Federations. The changes have been through a robust governance process, culminating in sign-off at the top level of Defence and announced by the Minister for Defence People, Veterans & Service Families on 19 September 2023.

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02   What will change under the New Accommodation Offer?

Changes under the New Accommodation Offer include:

1. Needs-based allocation:

The New Accommodation Offer guarantees that future allocation of homes to Service personnel will be based on the needs of the immediate families rather than the rank.

2. Established Long Term Relationships:

All personnel in an Established Long Term Relationship will benefit from the same Service Family Accommodation offer as personnel in both married and civil partnerships.

To find out more about Established Long Term Relationships see: Established Long Term Relationship (office.com)

3. Support for parents:

If you have eligible child(ren) who stay with you for more than 80 nights per calendar year, you will be able to benefit from Service Family Accommodation.

4. Transitional protection:

If personnel experience a reduction in their entitlement as a result of the new offer, they will be eligible to ‘transitional protection’. This will give them access to a similar sized property to what they are current entitled to for a three-year transition period after the launch of the new offer on the 11 March 2024.

  • Private rental accommodation: Where SFA is unavailable, Service personnel will be given support and various payments to cover the costs associated with renting and a contribution towards your monthly rent, adjusted for local housing costs.
  • Dual Accommodation Expense: If you live in Single Living Accommodation (SLA) but your main home is elsewhere, you will be eligible to claim back the cost of your SLA up to a monthly cap.
  • Defence Minimum Standard: A minimum standard for SLA has been agreed and we are already assessing the entire SLA estate to understand where rooms are currently failing to meet this. This will inform where investment is needed.
  • Support to buy a home: Service personnel becoming first time buyers will be able to apply for a refund of up to £1,500 of their legal expenses.
  • Improving the overseas accommodation offer: Whilst the new accommodation offer will begin its roll out in the UK, we are already looking at how to roll out as much of it as possible overseas, beginning with pilots of needs-based accommodation at selected locations.
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03   Changing family accommodation entitlements

1. Who will be entitled to family accommodation in future?

Service personnel in an established long-term relationship will be given the same accommodation entitlement as those who are married or in a civil partnership. Service personnel who stay with you for more than 80 nights per calendar year, you will be able to benefit from Service Family Accommodation. Single Service personnel will also be able to apply for family accommodation.

2. What will the size of family accommodation be based on?

Service personnel of all ranks will receive an entitlement to accommodation based on their need, for most this will be linked to the size of their immediate family. Where availability allows, personnel will have greater flexibility to choose a property that is above or below their entitlement if they feel that would suit their family better.

3. Does basing accommodation on need rather than rank erode ‘the offer’?

Some Service personnel will see a reduction in their accommodation entitlement under the New Accommodation Offer, but many will have access to subsidised accommodation in a way they have not previously. We should not forget that many personnel do not live in Service accommodation and therefore do not receive any ‘reward’ from rank-based entitlements – moving to a needs-based model means all personnel will be supported equitably to meet their accommodation and Service needs.  All Service personnel in MOD-supported family accommodation will still receive heavily subsidised housing in comparison to those who reside outside the system.

4. Will charging be based on ‘need’ or will it remain with rank?

Under a needs-based model, Service personnel will pay the appropriate charge or rent for the property they occupy, and this will not differ by rank. Offering greater flexibility between Service Family Accommodation types, may mean personnel have more opportunity to pay more, or less for their property based on what they want from their accommodation and their own assessment of their spending power and lifestyle priorities.

5. Will those Service personnel whose entitlement will reduce on transition to the New Accommodation Offer be protected?

If personnel experience a reduction in their entitlement because of the new offer, they will be eligible to ‘Transitional Protection. This will give them access to a similar property to what they are current entitled to for a three-year transition period after the launch of the new offer on the 11 March 2024.

6. Do the new entitlements apply to those overseas?

This policy currently only applies to all those who receive an assignment order for a UK based role. The overseas offer is being considered as a separate piece of work.

7. Will Single Living Accommodation entitlements change?

Longer term accommodation policy work is looking at how Single Living Accommodation structures can be used to support the wants and needs of Service personnel better. This includes considering the role of rank in allocating accommodation. 

8. If I am in surplus accommodation in a Established Long-Term Relationship, do I need to move?

No. If you are already in an Established Long-Term Relationship and occupying surplus Service Family Accommodation under legacy policy, you will remain on your surplus license until your next assignment post the launch date when you can apply under the New Accommodation Offer.

9. Is support for parents with children who only live with them some of the time going to be continued under the New Accommodation Offer?

Yes. If eligible, parents with children who stay with them for 80 nights or more per year will be entitled to subsidised family accommodation.

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04   Use of private rental accommodation

1. What happens if Service Family Accommodation is not available?

At some locations, there may not be enough Service Family Accommodation for all entitled Service personnel who request it. At these locations, the private rental sector will be used, and personnel will be given practical and financial support, adjusted for the local market, to source a home. Where possible, preferences for MOD-provided Service Family Accommodation or self-sourced rental accommodation will be met. If there are specific reasons why a Service family cannot source their own rental accommodation, substitute Service Family Accommodation may be sourced on their behalf.

2. Why are you using rental properties when they are becoming more expensive?

Changes to how we manage the estate will help maximise the use of Service Family Accommodation, but it is likely there will be some locations where there are not enough MOD-provided properties for every family that wants one. Rental payments will be reviewed regularly to ensure Service personnel placed into the Private Rental Sector receive appropriate financial support.

3. What support will be available to Service personnel placed into the Private Rental Sector?

When a Service person is placed into the Private Rental Sector, the Defence Infrastructure Organisation will pass their details onto the Accommodation Support Cell, a national team designed to support personnel and their families through the process and answer any questions on the new policy. The Accommodation Support Cell will signpost to resources available to secure a property, help personnel through the process, and review any evidence presented if there are difficulties in finding a property.

In addition to this, Unit HR, Chain of Command and the Housing Colonels will be on hand to support Service personnel with any immediate questions.

4. Does using the Private Rental Sector place too great an administrative burden on Service personnel and their families?

Lord Ashcroft’s 2014 review of transition and more recent work by Forces in Mind Trust (Rolfe, 2020) identified lack of awareness of civilian housing matters as a significant factor in poor accommodation outcomes at transition – supporting SP to learn these skills whilst still in Service is one way we can help address this.

Lessons have been learned during the Future Accommodation Model Pilot and Service personnel will be supported by the dedicated Accommodation Support Cell. Personnel, their families and partners will be able to contact the cell to help them navigate the private rental sector and we are also rolling out dedicated training to HR points of contact.

To contact the ASC email: People-Accom-ASC@mod.gov.uk

5. Do you anticipate removing Service Family Accommodation under The New Accommodation Offer?

No. Service Family Accommodation continues to play a key role in providing subsidised accommodation for Service personnel now and in the future. The New Accommodation Offer will not directly result in any being removed from the Defence Portfolio.

6. Will private rental accommodation be used in Northern Ireland?

The policy applies equally in Northern Ireland. Given security considerations a tailored process will be in place for those who may need to find accommodation in the Private Rental Sector. 

7. What’s the role of the Accommodation Support Cell?

The Accommodation Support Cell is a dedicated team of Civil Servants who, from the 19 Sept 2023, will provide support on the New Accommodation Offer.

The Accommodation Support Cell core role is threefold:

  1. to provide support to Service personnel with policy questions and queries on the New Accommodation Offer, including the different allowances available and how to claim them.
  2. to provide support to Service personnel placed into the Private Rental Sector, and signposting to resources available to secure a property.
  3. to review evidence presented by a service person who has difficulty finding a property in the Private Rental Sector and either directing that further action is needed or escalating the case to the Accommodation Colonel for decision.

The Accommodation Support Cell is being set up to complement the existing Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Industry Partner and Accommodation Colonel teams in the services they will provide to Service personnel on the New Accommodation Offer.

8. So, the Accommodation Support Cell can help me find and secure a property if I’m placed into the Private Rental Sector?

The Accommodation Support Cell will provide you with policy, geographical and logistical support in your search, and offer advice on any additional resources and support that may be available to you. They are not designed to source properties in the way that Mears, our industry partner, has sourced SSSA and SSFA in the past. However, over time, the Accommodation Support Cell will build local area knowledge which will assist you in your search. They do not have legally qualified personnel; therefore, they cannot offer advice on leases etc.

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05   Timelines for the New Accommodation Offer

1. When will the New Accommodation Offer be available for SP?

Starting from March 2024, the MOD will begin introducing a New Accommodation Offer for our Armed Forces. Some of the changes will be available immediately whilst others may only apply to you when you are assigned to a new role or at the end of the three-year transition period.

2. Why has the New Accommodation Offer been delayed from the October launch date?

We have learned lessons from the FAM pilot and other Defence programmes. We need to ensure that we have thoroughly tested all our systems ahead of launch to ensure that Service Personnel have the experience that they expect and deserve. We have therefore had to delay the roll out to 11 March 2024 to enable us to ensure we’re ready for launch.

3. Is there anything I need to do right now?

No, you will continue to use the current accommodation policy, as set out in JSP 464, until further notice.

Those who believe that they might be entitled when the policy goes live on the 11 March 2024 are encouraged to ensure that their Established Long Term Relationship status is formally recorded on JPA in accordance with Paragraphs 0116 and 0117 in JSP 464, Vol.1 Part 1.

4. How are Service families updated and informed of the New Accommodation Offer progress?

We will run an extensive communication package ready for the launch of the New Accommodation Offer starting in September 2023 and beyond.

We have actively consulted Service personnel, families, partners and representatives to understand their preferences and use this information to help develop the communication plan. We continue to seek innovative platforms including face-to-face opportunities, social media and online briefings.

 

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06   Who can I talk to for further information?

There will be a lot more detail on the New Accommodation Offer over the coming months including the publication of the updated JSP in November and specific information packs designed for the Service person and the Chain of Command. In the meantime, if you have any questions on the new offer, you can find further detail on:

In addition, from 19 September a new Accommodation Support Cell team will be on hand to answer any questions or queries Service personnel have on the New Accommodation Offer. They will then be in place to fully support Service personnel through their search for private rental when the process goes live in March 24.

For more information contact: People-Accom-ASC@mod.gov.uk

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