Survey: Juneau's expensive

Rent for a single-family home in Juneau is more than double the cost in Wrangell-Petersburg

Posted: Thursday, July 20, 2006

Juneau's cost of living is still among the highest in the state, according to a recent report by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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Renting a house was more expensive in Juneau than any of the other nine areas studied around the state, according to a 2005 survey. The survey was conducted by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

Renting an apartment was most expensive in Kodiak, according to the study.

"It's getting harder to develop around here," said Sean Paul, a ReMax associate broker in Juneau.

The city has almost no lots zoned for high-density housing available to the private sector, but a higher demand for existing units, Paul said.

The median rent for a three-bedroom single-family home in Juneau was $1,617, a 6 percent increase from 2004 and more than double the median cost in Wrangell-Petersburg, which, at $800, saw a reduction, the report showed. The Valdez-Cordova census area was second, at $1,587.

The highest monthly apartment rentals for a two-bedroom unit are in Kodiak, at an average of $1,111. Juneau follows with $1,045, and Sitka was third, at $958.

According to the study, housing was most affordable in Fairbanks, where it takes 1.3 wage earners to buy an average single-family home.

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Of nine areas reviewed, Juneau ranked seventh, requiring 1.8 wage earners to buy a home. Bethel was the most expensive by local wage standards, requiring 2.2 wage earners.

For the first time, Anchorage had the highest average sales price for a home, according to another survey, an AHFC review of average sale prices from the second half of 2004 to the second half of 2005. The average in the state's largest city was $294,000, while in the capital it was $281,000.

According to Southeast Alaska's Multiple Listing Service, the average price for a Juneau house is $315,000, Paul said.

"Interests rates have been good, which helps keep the demand up," Paul said.

But many families with moderate income levels are unable to find homes they can afford, he added.

Several studies listed in the state report showed Juneau being more costly than Anchorage and Fairbanks and several major cities across the nation.

The Runzheimer Plan of Living Cost Standards figures how much money a household needs in each city for basic housing, transportation, taxation and various goods. Residents in Bellingham, Wash., would need $36,000; those in Astoria, Ore., $33,800. Those incomes were similar to the figures required for Anchorage and Fairbanks, respectively. Living in Juneau would require $40,289, according to the study.

It's still more expensive to live in Alaska than much of the rest of the country, but the gap is gradually narrowing, the report said.

Department economist Brigitta Windisch-Cole said that could be better for some residents wanting the same products and services available in the Lower 48.

Despite some trends, businesses have to contend with the distance of transporting goods to Alaska.

"Many industries still consider Alaska as a high-cost state," Windish-Cole said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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