Alaska’s population is aging, but the state is not building senior housing to keep pace.
“Get ready for the silver tide,” Carol Gore of the Cook Inlet Housing Authority said during a noon presentation at the Capitol Building Wednesday. “And if I was going to articulate this more properly, I would call it a tsunami.”
Alaska has the fastest growing senior population in the nation, Gore said. Seniors are living longer "which is good news for us," she said, and are choosing to remain in the state after retirement.
Alaska has seen an 85 percent increase in its senior population between 2000 and 2011. However, senior housing hasn’t grown with the population.
Gore spoke about Alaska’s Senior Citizens Housing Grant Fund. The fund is delivered through Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.
“Someday you, too, will be an elder,” Hoffman said. “And this will make a difference for you, too.”
The senior housing grant fund has helped finance 268 senior housing units in Alaska since 2009. Kodiak, Soldotna and Eagle River received grant funds for 94 more rentals in 2012.
However, applications for 163 shovel-ready senior housing units were not funded. Alaska housing would have needed $9 million more in 2012 to meet this number.
Four powerhouses of Alaska housing finance sent representatives to the Legislature to outline Alaska’s housing programs during the presentation.
The speakers were Ricardo Worl, president of Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, Carol Gore CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, Bart Meyer, executive director of Baranof Island Housing Authority and Ronald Hoffman, CEO of AVCP Regional Housing Authority.
These housing groups are part of the 14-member Association of Alaska Housing Authorities. Collectively, the housing authorities employ around 2,250 each year.
Dan Fauske, executive director of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, was in the audience.
Ricardo Worl said the state benefits from the hands-on work and funding of Alaska’s housing organizations.
“We are on the ground meeting the challenges of building homes in rural Alaska and Alaska in general,” Worl said. “It is very costly and if we didn’t have the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation supplemental grant program we would be a lot less developed than we are now. It is huge for us. Enormous”
AHFC’s housing supplemental funds hire local workers, Worl said. And without administrative overhead, 100 percent of these funds go to projects, he said.
“We built more than 500 homes” in the authority’s 56 tribes, said Ronald Hoffman, chief executive officer of the AVCP Regional Housing Authority. “This would not be possible without supplemental funds.”
Heating and transportation costs are high in rural Alaska, Hoffman said. This impacts all services. This costs is having a devastating impact … all over rural Alaska,” Hoffman said. Several heads in the audience nodded in agreement.
Hoffman said programs that weatherize homes save families money. And weatherization projects helped pay out $15 million in wages to more than 700 people, he said.
Money spent during weatherization projects can run a community for three to five years, Hoffman said. And the financial windfall is bringing people back to rural communities.
"We use it to the best of our abilities,” Hoffman said.
For more information on the Association of Alaska Housing Authorities visit www.aahaak.org.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.