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New armed forces housing benefit won't help Petawawa troops, realtor warns

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A change to the Canadian Armed Forces housing benefit will see thousands more members partially compensated for housing.

However, in Petawawa there's a sense this change will have little impact.

"I would say that about 80 per cent of the transactions in our office are about military transferees," Pembroke and Petawawa based Re/Max realtor Cynthia Lloyd says.

The new housing benefit, named the Canadian Forces Housing Differential (CFHD), was created to give relief to the lowest earners in the ranks. As armed forces members move up the pay scale, the less they will be compensated for housing.

"The greater assistance goes to those who don't make as much, and so therefore have a larger gap that they are facing to try and afford basic accommodation," said Brigadier-General Virginia Tattersall, Director General of Compensation and Benefits with the Canadian military.

"The idea is that for their gross monthly salary they are not paying more than 25 per cent of their budget on housing."

"We are an affordable location compared to other bases," Lloyd says. "So say for instance Ottawa or Borden or even Trenton, it is more affordable here in Petawawa."

Based on that affordability, armed forces members in the Ottawa Valley on only the three lowest pay levels will be able to claim the benefit. The pay levels range from level 1 (lowest earners) to level 20 (highest earners).

Regular force, Class B reserves, and Class C reserves on the three lowest levels can claim the benefit. Those members living in Petawawa on level 1 can claim up to $950 a month, level 2 up to $600 a month, and level 3 up to $150 a month.

The new housing benefit is seen by some as a way of recruiting new members to a severely under-staffed force.

"The military needs highly motivated members and one of the ways it can make sure members are motivated is that especially at the younger ages, at the more junior levels where people join, that they have adequate financial means," says Christian Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College and Queen's University.

"The housing benefit urgently needed an overhaul, like so many other policies in this department."

The previous benefit, known as post living differential (PLD), had been frozen since 2009 and had been described as a one-size-fits-all approach.

But Lloyd says despite the new assistance, it won't help much for members coming to the Ottawa Valley.

"We're in a very undersupplied market," Lloyd tells CTV News.

"So we are already at an under supply of homes for sale. So I don't think that making it more affordable on the monthly will change the market conditions here in Petawawa."

The CFHD expires after seven years for stationary members. CAF members who are consistently posted around the country will remain eligible. However, members who stay in one location - such as Petawawa - for longer than seven years will lose the benefit after that time.

"In that seven years, we expect that there's a greater likelihood that they will get promoted or move up in pay incentives," Tattersall says.

The new Canadian Forces Housing Differential comes into effect July 1, 2023.

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