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Housing allowances around Fort Drum increase for 2013

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FORT DRUM — Base housing allowances across the military will increase for 2013, and soldiers from post likely will benefit from the higher payouts.

Nationally, rates will rise 3.8 percent next year, according to the Department of Defense. In most instances, allowances in the Watertown-Fort Drum area will increase for soldiers both with and without dependents.

For a staff sergeant with dependents, the monthly allowance will increase to $1,383 in 2013, up 8.5 percent from $1,275 this year. A captain with dependents will see his allowance jump from $1,782 to $1,839, a 3.2 percent increase. The allowances of junior enlisted soldiers with dependents, such as privates and specialists, will increase about 5 percent in 2013, from $1,203 to $1,266.

A staff sergeant without dependents will see his rate stay flat at $1,068 in 2013, while a captain will see his allowance increase 5 percent from $1,428 to $1,503. The allowance for a junior enlisted soldier without dependents goes from $945 in 2012 to $948 in 2013.

The new rates will go into effect Tuesday.

Housing allowances are set to cover market rent, utilities and renter’s insurance. Data to estimate the allowance are collected in the spring and summer each year. Ranks that show a decreased housing allowance apply only to soldiers newly arriving on post, and not to those already renting residences.

Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, said he was encouraged by the rates, after what he called a “mixed bag” for allowance totals in 2012. He said the higher allowances showed the area still had demand for available housing units.

Though he acknowledged the higher allowances could draw complaints from civilians concerned that they keep rents high, he said the increased housing allowances will help encourage developers to take on development costs to build new residences. The new residences then would create a higher vacancy rate that would stabilize the market and give more choices to renters.

“People aren’t going to build apartments out of the goodness of their heart,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “This assures them of a fair return for their investment, and what it costs to create a new unit of housing.”

Mr. McLaughlin said the vacancy rate now is less than 2 percent.

“Until we hit that five to seven percent vacancy rate, we’ll always be a market that doesn’t have choice for the consumer,” he said.

He said he was concerned that property owners would use the allowance alone to indicate what they could charge for rent, noting the other expenses that the allowance is supposed to cover. However, Mr. McLaughlin said, he had heard few complaints from post about overcharging of soldiers.

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