Housing for Federal Employees

As you can imagine, the housing for federal employees, especially those employed by any of the land management agencies, can vary quite a bit. Just as the job descriptions for the available positions vary, the housing will be different depending on the type of position you have, where the position is located and how many others are housed with you. If housing issues may be a concern to you, it’s best to ask about the housing situation when you are offered the job. It is best not to expect too much more then the basics for most federal housing, and if you get more than that, be thankful.

Housing can Vary Depending on Location and How Rural the Location is

Seasonal and summer employees are not always offered housing nor do they always have housing options arranged for them. Sometimes, housing costs will be charged to seasonal employees and the cost deducted from their pay. Luckily, the cost is very reasonable and most likely much cheaper than what someone would pay to live in another location. If the job position is located very close to a town or city, then the employee might have to be responsible for finding their own housing. But between the local chamber of commerce and the Internet, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. In short, the more rural the position is, the more likely that housing will be provided to the employee.

Different Types of Federal Housing

Not all housing is created equal and summer and seasonal employees are not going to have the same level of housing that a full-time employees would. Seasonal workers can expect to live in tents, bunkhouses or military-style barracks as these are the usual offerings for short-term positions. They will vary from site to site. One seasonal worker who spent six summers working for the same agency explains how varied the living situation can be:

“During my first season I was in a bunkhouse sharing a room and a kitchen with others. My next two seasons I was in a floating cabin on a lake, with an outhouse, no shower and a propane stove. It was very rustic but it was also public domain – it served as my house as well as the ranger station. Then I worked two seasons as a backcountry ranger. One year I carried my house on my back – tent, stove, sleeping pad and bag – everything I needed to live. But the next year I lived in a platform tent with a large propane tank attached to a stove and a bear box to store food and cooking supplies. This past summer was probably the most deluxe of all. I lived with someone else in a two-bedroom, two-bath house with flush toilets and electricity.”

As you can see, it takes an adventurous type to do this type of job and have fun along the way. Imagine being able to live in and around nature while you work to help protect it. You may not have luxury, but you will always have exactly what you need. In accordance with the Office of Management and Budget guidance, the Park Service is authorized to provide park housing to seasonal employees in all locations, and to permanent employees whose job description requires them to live in the park in order to provide needed services or protection, or when adequate housing in the local community is not available.

Did You Know? The Park Service has about 5,200 housing units, which includes detached single-family homes, multiplexes, apartments, cabins, dormitories and trailers. They are located in many of the 370 parks throughout the country. 70 percent of the housing is located in western parks and also includes tents, bunkers and barracks.

How Does Housing Compare?

The NPS is not the only agency that provides housing to their employees. Other federal land management agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management do as well. Not all agencies provide the same level of housing, either. Although all of them are considered to be satisfactory, NPS is known for providing the best of the four. One reason for this is because its mission emphasizes providing more in-park services to their visitors than the other agencies, and the Park Service believes that it needs to provide a larger number of its employees with in-park housing.

Quick Summary:

  • Types of housing that can be provided by the NPS can vary depending on location, job level position and length of stay.
  • Expect basic accommodations to be provided, and remember that high expectations can lead to disappoint.
  • The most common types of housing provided to seasonal workers are tents, barracks and bunkhouses, but some jobs come with apartments and homes.
  • Housing will change with each new position and location.
  • NPS is known for having the best housing of all four land management agencies.


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