Living On A Military Base

I have mentioned before that after Matt and I were married, we bought a house and we lived there for a few years. It wasn’t until last year (2014) that we made the “life change” and Matt applied to work with Canadian Forces as a military firefighter. After that decision, upon his acceptance, we opted to sell our home before Matt went off to complete his basic training. Once he had completed his BMQ, we applied to live in a PMQ together as Matt would need to train to work as a firefighter. We got a place, and have been able to live together while Matt is on course.

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The PMQ:

Private Military/Married Quarters (PMQ’s) is housing provided to members of the military and their families. Here in Canada, our “Q’s” are not rank-segregated. Officers, NCOs and junior ranks all live together. You don’t need to be married to get a PMQ. Children and pets are other factors that determine the size of your house or apartment. Rank is only a factor later in life when you’re allowed bigger houses based on your function (e.g. base commander).

Various types of housing that exist:

– Row-houses: They almost look like they’re made out of Lego. For the most part they’re a combination of plastic siding and brick. Varying colour schemes exist across bases which make for a visual “journey” when searching for an address in Q-town. 😊 It can look like a ghetto to the un-accustomed, but to those of us who live here, they’re all different.

– A-frames: A 1.5 storey, stand-alone house. It looks like the letter “A” when seen from the side, and they usually have slanted ceilings on the upper floor.

– Various other models for stand-alone houses also exist but for the sake of simplicity I won’t go into detail.

– Semi-detached houses. We have one of these abodes. 😀

The purpose of a PMQ?

A PMQ is meant to provide affordable and convenient housing for military families:

– Proximity: As a military family we work long hours. Proximity to base is key!

– Affordability: Depending on what base you’re posted to, the rent varies. However, it is often less than renting off base.

– Practicality: Some members move. A lot. Matt is just on course at the moment so we are unsure where we’ll be posted and how long we’ll be there for. So we’re still just newbies ☺️. Because housing markets can vary from base to base, and you don’t always get enough warning when you’re posted-out, selling and buying homes on short-term notice or in depressed markets can be a costly financial venture, which is outside of the purview of most military families. As such, housing is usually the cost of a mortgage as would be reflected by the local economy, and affordable for most.

– Community: The sense of community you gain from living near people who live what you do is invaluable. Long hours, deployments, courses, postings, exercises, and midnight trips to the CANEX for milk or tampons.

The downside to “Q living” is that you aren’t paying into property or equity. Not only that, but there are limitations as to how much you can “decorate” your space. For good reason though, the housing has to be transferable from family to family and require minimal repairs after you move-out. No one is going to pay to renovate their Q. Also, you’re living in very close proximity to people.

So how do you modify the structure you live in, to make it a home? Easy! A little elbow grease and a budget.

Bloom where you're planted

Some things you cannot modify in the Q without a permit (attainable through your CFHA):

– Paint the walls (I think I heard that maybe you can, but it needs to be primed over again before you move.)

– Build structures in or around the Q.

– Modify the fixtures such as cabinetry, door-handles, light-fixtures, or doors (you can, just switch it back when you move out.)

What you can do in a Q:

– Hang things on the wall! Thumb tacs and nails are a-ok in my books. So get creative. Nails mean bigger holes, which have to be speckled and painted-over when you leave.

– Work with what you got! Do you have a nice stairway with a window at the top? Same strategic mirror placement can change the distribution of light throughout.

– Pick each room’s function strategically! Does the biggest room in your house really need to house the TV and a couch? what about the other walls in that room?! Where should your bedroom go? Street side, or yard side? What about the screaming children next door? All things to consider…😉)

– Pick accents and furniture that will fit any future space (as well the one you have). Do not buy a corner bench that fits really nicely in your kitchen if you don’t see it fitting into another kitchen at a later date. Or if you do, don’t go out of budget for a one-house piece unless you’re willing to sell it on Craigslist or Kijiji when you leave. Do pick a bed frame you think can fit into another PMQ (not all floor-plans are created equal). A queen size bed is probably the biggest you can fit in the staircase.

– SET A BUDGET! There’s no point spending your mortgage, and then some, on furnishings for your home if you can DIY them, find them at Target, local thrift stores, or Kijiji/Craigslist for cheap.

Ready to see what we had to work with?!

I'm Going Wherever He's Going

6 thoughts on “Living On A Military Base

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