15 FAM 260 


(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)
(Office of Origin:  OBO)


(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)

The following principles guide the allocation of U.S. Government-owned (GO) and leased residential space among agencies at post.  All agencies requesting leasing services for their personnel under COM authority must sign an ICASS MOU and a subscription of services agreement indicating the relevant cost centers (See 6 FAH-5 H-210).  Please note that leasing services will not be provided without a formally-approved MOU and an established headquarters agency contact.  (For DOD employees not under COM authority, see 15 FAM 261.3, Housing for Certain Department of Defense Personnel.)

The following sections explain the application of these principles in specific circumstances:

(1)  All GO and leased housing is pooled, except designated and dedicated residences and USAID-managed housing;

(2)  The Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended, states that first consideration must go to direct-hire employees in the foreign affairs agencies: Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), and the Department of Commerce (DOC), as well as to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employees.  Then consideration goes to direct-hire employees of agencies that contributed to a purchase program or turned properties over to the Department, as described in this section.  For this purpose, the FAS category includes the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s employees abroad;

(3)  Housing assignments should reflect the rank and family size of the prospective occupants;

(4)  After first meeting the requirements of the foreign affairs agencies, post may allocate any remaining GO or leased housing to other agencies’ U.S. direct-hire employees (USDHs).  Post allocations must serve USDH needs and achieve maximum savings for the U.S. Government (see Note); and

(5)  Do not keep GO or leased property vacant for longer than 3 months.  Do not use such properties as transient quarters merely to accommodate the requirements of the abovementioned foreign affairs agencies. See 15 FAM 164.b.1

      NOTE:  GO and leased housing is for full-time USDHs assigned to post.  Occupants not meeting this criteria require OBO’s approval to use the property.

15 FAM 261.1  Housing Acquired with Other Agency Funds

(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)

a. Agencies wishing to participate in post’s purchase program may contribute to such arrangements with the expectation that “ownership” will reduce overall lease costs at post.  For all agencies, including the Department of State, the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) must maintain memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that outline funding arrangements and long-term property entitlements in the Real Property Application (RPA) database.

b. Make every effort to accommodate agencies that turned residential property over to Department of State management under the Single Real Property Manager (SRPM) concept.  When a particular agency’s funds were used to acquire property, that agency retains an entitlement to occupy an equivalent number of GO or leased properties (if any are available and appropriately sized).  There is no guarantee that an agency will get to reserve or exclusively use a particular unit or units.  Posts should consult with OBO to verify funding sources for properties that may be included in this category.

c.  In the event the post interagency housing board’s (IAHB) assignments result in an agency not receiving its established entitlement, that agency must fund any resulting lease costs until an appropriate GO unit is available.  In such cases, the affected agency will have first priority on the next available and appropriately-sized GO unit.  Posts should make every effort to give adequate lead time to each agency when planning future budgets, especially if anticipating additional lease costs.

15 FAM 261.2  Housing for USAID Personnel

(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)
(USAID Only)

Where USAID independently manages its housing, USAID prefers that USAID mission personnel not occupy Department of State-held GO or leased housing if USAID has not contributed to the acquisition of the property.  If posts are unable to determine ownership status, refer questions to OBO and the Overseas Management Division, Bureau for Management, USAID/Washington (USAID/W - M/MS/OMD).

15 FAM 261.3  Housing for Certain Department of Defense (DOD) Personnel

(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)
(DIA Only)

a. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel (civilian and military) who are assigned under the Foreign Military Sales program (or other similar DOD-funded programs) are not normally entitled to U.S. Government-held housing.  The host government provides housing for these personnel under the governing bilateral agreement.  If the agreement does not include housing, then housing is provided within the post’s U.S. Government leasing program, or under Living Quarters Allowance/Overseas Housing Allowance (LQA/OHA) programs, and it is funded by the program under which these personnel are assigned.  Such personnel are under Chief of Mission (COM) authority, and their housing remains subject to the policies and standards outlined in 15 FAM, 2 FAH-2, and residential security standards as outlined under 12 FAH 6 H-130, to include funding of security upgrades per 15 FAM 165.

b. Leasing Services: For DOD entities not under COM authority that wish to use the Department of State’s contracting authority for leasing services must first comply with the requirements in 10 U.S.C. 2834.  This regulation stipulates that the Secretary of the DOD entity concerned (Secretary of Army, Navy, etc.) must enter into an agreement with the Secretary of State (delegated to the Under Secretary for Management, pursuant to Delegation of Authority 462) to provide housing and related services to DOD personnel in a specific location.  The Secretary’s determination must document a shortage of adequate housing in the country identified.  It must also state that participation in the Department's International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) housing pool is the most cost-effective means of providing housing to the agency’s personnel.

c.  Government-owned Housing: DOD personnel not under COM authority are not authorized to use the Department's GO housing.  Surplus residential units may be licensed to such personnel after all other mission employees’ requirements have been met.  License fees are normally set at market rates; posts should contact OBO for guidance on establishing fees and license agreements.  (See 15 FAM 535.)


(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)

a. The senior mission representative of each foreign affairs agency (USAID, Foreign Agricultural Service, and the International Trade Agency and the senior Defense official/Defense attaché (SDO/DATT) are provided housing—within the standards—for a family of four at the grade tier corresponding to the position.  This is due to the budgetary problems inherent in frequent changes of leased housing for senior agency representatives whose positions may require substantial expenditures for furniture, draperies, and security improvements.  At missions where the majority of senior foreign affairs agency representatives are classified at the Senior Foreign Service (SFS) or Senior Executive Service (SES) level, the senior U.S. Defense representative will be considered of equivalent rank for the purposes of establishing housing assignments.  At posts where the security assistance officer (SAO) is the U.S. Defense representative, dedicated housing should continue to be funded by the relevant Foreign Military Sales Program (or other Defense-funded program); U.S. Government-owned or capital-leased housing would not normally be provided.

b. Since the Department of State has multiple officers of similar ranks in section-head positions, position-dedicated housing is not required.  However, post management should ensure that a flexible variety of housing within the appropriate rank tier is provided to meet the Department’s requirements.


(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)

a. At posts with established LQA programs, employees wishing to lease residential properties must obtain approval from post’s IAHB prior to signing the lease.  The IAHB should consider the implications to the overall housing program if the proposed residence is in excess of their space authorization or any established rental-cost ceiling.  No Washington, DC headquarters approval is necessary.  Post’s IAHB review process should ensure that employees do not acquire ostentatious or otherwise inappropriate housing that could create a negative impression.  LQA/OHA payments to an employee or a military member must not exceed established LQA/OHA rates, regardless of the ultimate cost of a lease or rental ceiling.  LQA/OHA rates are set in the Standardized Regulations (U.S. Government Civilians, Foreign Areas), or in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations for Uniformed Service Members.

NOTE:  Agencies that participate in a post's furnished housing program must subscribe for all positions; employees may not opt out and seek LQA/OHA housing to suit personal preferences. 

b. For any LQA/OHA lease that exceeds an employee’s space authorization, or in instances where the employee is voluntarily “out-of-pocket,” post management must ensure that an appropriate notation is made on the employee’s Form SF-1190, Foreign Allowances Application, Grant and Report (or equivalent for other agencies).

c.  Each member of a tandem couple housed under the LQA/OHA option is eligible to receive his or her respective allowance, not to exceed one-half of the joint total lease and utility costs.  However, the rented property must be approved within the context of post’s IAHB review process, which is outlined in this section.  If the annual rent exceeds post’s rental ceiling or the FAM residential space standards, post’s IAHB has the authority to deny authorization to rent the proposed property.

d. If adequate GO residential property is available at post, employees may not receive LQA/OHA if such housing would remain vacant.  Adequate U.S. Government-leased housing may not be dropped from post inventory to grant LQA/OHA merely to satisfy an employee’s preference for a particular unit.

e. Properties acquired under the LQA program or the OHA program must have the approval of the Regional Security Officer (RSO) or post security officer (PSO).  The post occupational safety and health officer (POSHO) must complete an inspection of the property and provide the findings to the employee.  (See 15 FAM 252.5 and 15 FAM 970.)  The employee must then negotiate with the landlord to make the required changes; otherwise, the employee must find another suitable residence or perform the required changes themselves with the landlord’s consent.  It is the employee’s responsibility to negotiate with the landlord to correct deficiencies identified in the POSHO inspection of the property.

f.  Properties acquired under the LQA or OHA programs must follow the requirements for high-rise properties, which are outlined in 15 FAM 813.7, Acquiring High-Rise Properties.

g. Employees wishing to lease residential properties are encouraged to use the OBO model lease.

h. Residential Properties under the LQA or OHA program that are placed in the Department's Real Property Application (RPA) will be provided fire and life safety equipment (i.e. residential smoke alarms and portable fire extinguishers) from OBO/OPS/FIRE.  The parent agency will procure these items for residences not in RPA.

i.  Personnel, and/or their accompanying dependents who reside under chief of mission (COM) authority and security responsibilities, as well as certain other government personnel assigned to U.S. housing based on coordination with their respective agencies under COM residing in GO, leased, or LQA/OHA must follow residential security policies as outlined under 12 FAH 6 H-130 Residential Security Standards (All Crime, Political Violence, and Terrorism Threat Levels). It is the parent agency that is responsible for funding all residential security upgrades for LQA/OHA as outlined under 15 FAM 165.3b (2). 


15 FAM 264.1  Basis for Space Authorization

(CT:OBO-102;   07-20-2020)

a. Housing will be provided to employees based on position rank and family size at time of arrival at post.  When an employee’s position rank is greater or less than his or her personal rank, the position rank determines the employee’s maximum authorization.  Position reclassification during a tour of duty is not justification for changing a residence.  A complete listing of all Foreign Service, Civil Service, and military grade equivalents is contained in 15 FAM Exhibit 264.  (For waiver provisions, see 15 FAM 312.8 and 15 FAM 322.)

b. The space standards are maximums that reflect employees’ position rank and family size at time of arrival at post.  The number of bedrooms is not specifically a factor in determining the space authorization for an employee.  Post’s IAHB and the SRPM must ensure that available housing is effectively and rationally managed in relation to both employee requirements and U.S. Government interests.

c.  The number of official eligible family members (EFMs) residing permanently (more than 50 percent of the year) at post determines an employee’s space authorization.  Whenever there is documented evidence of impending birth or adoption showing an employee’s expectation of additional official EFMs within a reasonable period of arrival at post, they may be counted.  An increase or decrease in the number of EFMs during a tour is not an automatic entitlement or requirement to change an employee’s space standard (and therefore housing).  Housing moves will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration post’s needs and the specific family’s situation.  In determining appropriate authorizations, the following guidelines apply:

(1)  Tandem employees:  Tandem employees receive the space authorization for the senior member of the couple.  All costs will be shared equally by the respective parent agencies, except as set forth in 15 FAM 163, paragraphs a and b;

(2)  Official EFMs on orders residing away from post:  For employees with official EFMs at post less than 50 percent of the year, termed “residing away from post,” the employee’s maximum authorization increases:

(a)  175 square feet (16 square meters) for one to two EFMs; and

(b)  350 square feet (33 square meters) for three to four EFMs.

      For example, an employee with five EFMs at post less than 50 percent of the year would have an authorized maximum of [base allotment] + 525 square feet.  Eligible dependent children will only be considered for housing authorization if, at the time of the family's arrival at post, they are under age 21;

(3)  Employees with family members on separate maintenance allowance (SMA):  For the purposes of this policy, family members on SMA cannot be considered in determining an employee’s space authorization;

(4)  Children of separated parents:  If an employee shares legal custody of a child or children from a previous marriage, and it is anticipated that the child or children will visit post frequently, the maximum authorization will be increased per subparagraph c(2) of this section; and

(5)  Single parents or families with a live-in housekeeper:  The U.S. Government is not required to provide housing for the employee’s household staff.  To the extent that housing with staff quarters may be available in post’s inventory, the SRPM and post’s IAHB may wish to ensure the local housing policy gives preference for such housing to single parents or other families requiring such space.

15 FAM 264.2  Locality Adjustment Factors

(CT:OBO-69;   04-04-2018)

a. The “quality of life” at each post is an integral part of determining the locality adjustment factor.  Available cultural and recreational activities, climate, security (both in terms of terrorism and crime), and isolation are items considered when assigning a locality index number to a particular post.  At the center of this is the Department’s desire to ensure the well-being of the employee and family.

b. Recognizing the inherent differences at posts, a three-level locality index has been established, with each level increasing in increments of 10%.  In addition to the requirement for consumable storage space, these determinations were based on the following three criteria:

(1)  Type 1:  Posts in this group are in countries characterized by relatively high economic development, general availability of cultural and recreational activities, essentially unrestricted travel opportunities, and threat to personal safety no greater than in the Washington, DC area.  At these posts, employees and their EFMs typically spend as much time in their residences as they would in the Washington, DC area;

(2)  Type 2 (10 percent increase over Type 1):  Included in this group are posts with limited cultural and recreational activities, greater physical isolation (limited travel opportunities), and/or a climate that would result in employees and their EFMs spending more time at home.  General terrorist threat or threats to personal security, resulting in RSO-mandated restrictions on travel, may also be a factor; and

(3)  Type 3 (10 percent increase over Type 2):  Daily life is the most difficult in these posts.  Cultural and recreational facilities are scarce, travel is restricted, and the terrorist threat to personal security is very high.  Employees and EFMs at these posts spend most of their leisure time in their homes or those of other mission members.

c.  OBO and the regional bureaus review post locality codes every 5 years.  When posts determine that a material change in post’s quality of life has occurred, they may request a review of the post locality code.  The SRPM and post’s IAHB must be responsible for this determination.  Posts should not request changes in this rating to reflect short-term situations, but rather should seek a reevaluation only if post’s assessment of the environment is supported by documented trends.  Such evaluations may be considered for either increasing or decreasing the post rating.  15 FAM Exhibit 237(2) identifies each post by locality type.

15 FAM 264.3  Other Considerations in Housing Assignments

15 FAM 264.3-1  Special Circumstances

(CT:OBO-69;   04-04-2018)

In making housing assignments within the space standards, posts should also consider the particular requirements of employees, e.g., physical disabilities, or factors related to aged or disabled EFMs.

15 FAM 264.3-2  Space Layout

(CT:OBO-69;   04-04-2018)

Under this policy, space standards have been established on the basis of position rank and family size.  Within these criteria, posts should seek appropriate units that have varying configurations that will meet their housing needs and requirements.  Housing units with the same square footage can be vastly different because of their layouts, with some being more appropriate for representation or certain family sizes than others.  Such considerations should be factored into the assignment of housing.

15 FAM 264.3-3  Representation Function

(CT:OBO-69;   04-04-2018)

a. Representation is a key diplomatic function for many employees abroad who must develop personal relationships with host- and third-country officials in order to advance U.S. policies.  As an employee rises through the ranks, it is reasonable to assume that his or her professional responsibilities will increase, and representational functions (personal and official) may correspondingly increase.  Within the respective tiers of space standards (maximum allowable residence size), as defined in 15 FAM Exhibit 237(1) and 15 FAM Exhibit 237(2), it is estimated that employees could conduct functions at the following levels:

Dining Room Seating





Up to 12

Up to 20



Up to 18

Up to 30



Up to 24

Up to 40

b. These estimates are projected maximums; they should not be interpreted as requirements for particular housing units or units in excess of the occupant’s space standard maximum.  Infrequent functions (such as receptions) exceeding these levels could be incorporated into post’s representational plan, and co-hosted with the ambassador or DCM—whose official residences are intended for such large-scale entertainment.  Otherwise, do not eliminate suitable housing from consideration simply because the representation guidelines shown in this section are not met.


15 FAM Exhibit 264  
Military Rank Equivalents

(CT: OBO-69;   04-04-2018)

GRADE/RANK BY SERVICE (Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines)

E-1 Private/Seaman Recruit/Airman Basic/Private

E-2 Private/Seaman Apprentice/Airman/Private First Class

E-3 Private First Class/Seaman/Airman First Class/Lance Corporal

E-4 Corporal or Specialist/Petty Officer Third Class/Senior Airman or Sergeant/ Corporal

E-5 Sergeant/Petty Officer Second Class/Staff Sergeant/Sergeant

E-6 Staff Sergeant/Petty Officer First Class/Technical Sergeant/Staff Sergeant

E-7 Sergeant First Class/Chief Petty Officer/Master Sergeant/Gunnery Sergeant

E-8 Master Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer/Senior Master Sergeant/Master Sergeant

E-9 Sergeant Major/Master Chief Petty Officer/Chief Master Sergeant/Master Gunnery Sergeant or Sergeant Major

W-1 Warrant Officer (Army, Navy, Marines only)

W-2 Chief Warrant Officer Two (Army, Navy, Marines only)

W-3 Chief Warrant Officer Three (Army, Navy, Marines only)

W-4 Chief Warrant Officer Four (Army, Navy, Marines only)

W-5 Chief Warrant Officer Five (Army, Navy, Marines only)

GRADE/RANK BY SERVICE (Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines)

0-1 Second Lieutenant (Army, Air Force, Marines) Ensign (Navy)

0-2  First Lieutenant (Army, Air Force, Marines) Lieutenant Junior Grade (Navy)

0-3 Captain (Army, Air Force, Marines) Lieutenant (Navy)

0-4 Major (Army, Air Force, Marines) Lieutenant Commander (Navy)

0-5 Lieutenant Colonel (Army, Air Force, Marines) Commander (Navy)

0-6 Colonel (Army, Air Force, Marines) Captain (Navy)

0-7 Brigadier General (Army, Air Force, Marines) Rear Admiral (Lower Half) (Navy)

0-8 Major General (Army, Air Force, Marines) Rear Admiral (Upper Half) (Navy)

0-9 Lieutenant General (Army, Air Force, Marines) Vice Admiral (Navy)

0-10 General (Army, Air Force, Marines) Admiral (Navy)






Group 1


GS 16-18

through O-7

Group 2





WS-14-19, WL-15, and Productive Support Equivalents

Group 3







WS 8-13,
WL 6-14,
WG 12-15, and
Productive Support

NOTE:  These groups and grade equivalents are for housing space standards only, and may differ from those established by law or regulation for any other purpose.