Today I am pleased to announce the Ministry of Defence’s new accommodation offer, which from 11 March 2024 will deliver greater access to subsidised accommodation for our service personnel.
As the Defence Command Paper Refresh made clear, our people are our greatest strength, and the provision of service accommodation is essential to their operational effectiveness. To support this, our new accommodation offer recognises the different ways our people and their families live, modernises the way we use our estate, and provides an enhanced offer based on each service person’s needs. We recognised the importance of improving fairness and inclusivity for all our people in the 2022 Defence accommodation strategy, and through the new accommodation offer we will deliver this for our people. Defence will also invest a further £400 million over the next two years to ensure that we provide the modern accommodation that our service personnel, their families and partners deserve.
The new accommodation offer widens entitlement to family accommodation subsidised by the MOD. This will be delivered through service family accommodation, or a subsidy provided to service personnel to rent from the private rental sector.
From March, service personnel who want to live with their partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, and parents with children who stay with them for 80 nights or more per year, will be entitled to subsidised family accommodation for the first time.
Widening entitlement to subsidised accommodation is the right thing to do. Inevitably, this will lead to increased demand across the Defence estate for accommodation. To ensure availability of subsidised accommodation for those entitled to it, we will make greater use of the private rental sector. Service personnel allocated to live in the private rental sector will receive a monthly rental subsidy to support them in renting a property that is suitable for their needs, within a daily commute of their assigned location.
Defence will no longer take rank into account when allocating accommodation, as using our estate this way increases cost and is inequitable. Through the new accommodation offer, accommodation entitlements will be simplified. Service personnel of all ranks will receive an entitlement to accommodation based on their need, which for most will be linked to family size. We will, however, give service personnel more flexibility to choose the size, type and location of their accommodation where availability allows.
Many of those who currently receive an entitlement based on rank will continue to be able to occupy a property with the same number of bedrooms under the new accommodation offer. However, where personnel do experience a reduction in their entitlement, they will be entitled to transitional protection until three years after the launch of the new offer.
As well as widening entitlement to family accommodation, the new accommodation offer will address the current disparity between how single living accommodation is charged to service personnel when it is not their main home. All personnel who cannot commute daily from their home will be supported irrespective of their marital status.
Home ownership will be made more achievable by giving first-time buyers the opportunity to have up to £1,500 of their legal expenses refunded alongside the support of Forces Help to Buy.
As of 11 March 2024, service personnel who are newly entitled will have the opportunity to apply for accommodation under the new accommodation offer.
For those who already have entitlement, they will have the opportunity to move to the new accommodation offer on their next assignment. After three years, any service personnel who have not yet transitioned to the new offer will do so in a programmed manner.
The new accommodation offer demonstrates our commitment to improving the offer for our service personnel, delivering the vision set out in the Defence accommodation strategy, and working towards improving our accommodation, noting the recommendations of the Haythornthwaite review. We will go as far as we can to improve the offer under existing policy by widening entitlement to service family accommodation for service personnel in long-term relationships at eight sites covering approximately 10,000 people. This will apply to service personnel assigned to these sites from 31 October 2023.
Further guidance is being published today, with a final joint service publication expected later this year.
As well as ensuring that our service people have the choice in homes they deserve, they must remain affordable. We are committed to protecting our service personnel from cost of living challenges. We have done this by freezing daily food charges, ensuring the council tax rebate reaches those in military accommodation, increasing the availability of free wrap-around childcare and, this year, delivering a freeze in service family accommodation rents funded principally through the penalties applied to maintenance contractors for their poor performance over the winter months.
Our strategic advantage is derived foremost from our first-class people—our real battle-winning capability. Today’s announcement builds on accommodation rent freezes, and an additional £400 million injection over the next two years to ensure that we provide the modern accommodation that our service families deserve.