Teacher housing bill passes committee

Wilken says measure will help teachers settle into Alaska communities

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Senate Health, Education and Social Services Committee on Monday passed a measure that would make it easier for teachers to get housing loans through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Senate Bill 25 by Fairbanks Republican Sen. Gary Wilken would allow teachers, counselors and administrators to borrow money for homes with no down payment.

"Every year the crescendo of need that we hear to attract teachers and retain teachers gets louder and louder," Wilken said.

He said the bill would work in a small way to help teachers settle into Alaska communities. Noting two-thirds of Alaska teachers are recruited from the Lower 48, he said the measure also would provide incentives to move north.

"Here's these teachers sitting in Des Moines, Iowa, and they're looking at where they want to go and they're being wooed by $30,000 grants in California and $10,000 grants in Iowa," Wilken said.

Brian Butcher, a legislative liaison with AHFC, said down payments usually run between 3 percent and 5 percent of the price of a home. About 5,000 Alaskans get home mortgages through AHFC every year, Butcher said.

"It's one of the major deterrents for young people starting out," Butcher said.

Debbie Ossiander, president of the Alaska Association of School Boards, said the group supports the bill in its current form.

Ossiander noted a similar measure last year by Rep. Norm Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican, failed after groups other than teachers were added to the bill.

"I think the tendency was to keep making it bigger and adding on a variety of groups and it gets pricey then," Ossiander said.

Rokeberg has filed companion legislation to SB 25 in the state House.

Wilken's bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.

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