Military housing unacceptable in many cases, commission finds

Severe deficiencies in housing for the military and their families are a “tax on the goodwill” of serving armed forces personnel, according to a report.

Dampness, mould, pest infestations and gas and electrical faults are among the persistent problems that plague service accommodation, the Kerslake Commission on Armed Forces Housing found in its Homes Unfit For Heroes report.

The report says the Ministry of Defence’s current investment in accommodation is inadequate and fails to make up for years of underfunding.

It also raises concerns that the effect of such housing issues on quality of life may deter personnel from staying in the armed forces for the long term.

Commission member General Sir Richard Barrons said: “Decent and affordable accommodation is crucial for the wellbeing of our armed forces personnel and is essential for maintaining the operational effectiveness of our national defence.

“Yet for many years the accommodation for many service personnel and their families has been poor, and in many cases unacceptable.

“Substandard accommodation has effectively become a tax on the goodwill of highly prized people that directly undermines operational effectiveness and retention of our armed forces.”

The commission is calling for immediate action to improve conditions in military housing.

The report pointed to poor management and maintenance and said a backlog of repairs is “at a tipping point” and means the cost of modernising armed forces accommodation could soon be more than £4 billion.

The Kerslake Commission on Armed Forces Housing was launched in February 2023, with the late Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service, as its chairman.

The review covers Army, RAF and Royal Navy housing.

The Ministry of Defence provides around 48,000 properties for families and some 154,000 for single service members.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey, who commissioned the report, said: “This damning report highlights the shoddy state of armed forces housing and the damage it’s doing to service morale. Ministers have seriously broken something that is so important to a good life in the forces.”

He added: “In government, Labour will renew the country’s commitment to those who serve, set new standards for service housing and legislate for an armed forces commissioner to act as a strong independent champion for our forces and their families to improve service life.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently apologised for shortcomings in military accommodation, acknowledging that defence accommodation is not always “fit for standard”.

As Mr Sunak committed the UK to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030, he also said there would be an investment of “something like £4 billion over the next decade to improve accommodation back home and around the world”.

The Ministry of Defence has been contacted for comment.