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Workforce Housing: Reflecting on Home at 22

Elbow deep into the shower drain and with a squinched nose and pursed lips, fishing for a hairball created by my three roommates and me in the too-cramped apartment off 88th Avenue… It’s not what anyone would reflect on as a fond memory but the expedition grounded me in reality: home maintenance is a price to be paid for independence.

Many of us share similar experiences: the dwelling we lived in between moving out of our parents’ house and before our first mortgage provided important life lessons in less than luxurious accommodations.

Workforce housing loosely refers to the residential needs of individuals and families who are living with moderate incomes but not yet ready or able to purchase a home.

Where did you live when you were 22?

When friends and colleagues share their stories, they often respond with a groan or chuckle, then go on to wax nostalgic about too-small spaces, too many roommates, well-worn furniture and a home improvement project gone wrong.

Anchorage residents shared their stories during a recent Live. Work. Play. event hosted by Anchorage Economic Development Corporation at Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

Reflecting on our own experiences encourages dialogue about housing in the communities we serve, and on the import of our mission that is to provide “safe, quality and affordable housing for Alaskans.” See if your friends or neighbors shared their stories and tell us about your #WhereILivedat22 story for a chance to win an Alaska-themed home maintenance gift basket. Visit our Facebook page to learn more.

Questions about renovations? Vist AHFC at your local homeshow

Improving energy efficiency and accessibilty are top reasons why Alaskans are considering home renovations. AHFC staff will be in two communities to answer questions about loan programs, home energy efficiency and other questions.

Fairbanks premiered the much-awaited happening March 23-25. Close to 5,000 visitors sacrificed time out in the 40 degree sunny spring weather and went indoors at the Carlson Center for the 31st annual Alaska Interior Builders Association’s Home Show. AHFC staff responded to questions about everything from Homechoice classes for new buyers to energy efficiency options and renovation loans. A winner was selected daily for a smart home hub package from the raffle tickets submitted at the AHFC booth.

Community members from all over the Kenai Peninsula visited Soldotna for the Kenai Home Show, April 7-8. Again, despite warm sunny weather, thousands of families spent a few hours indoors at the Soldotna Sports Arena learning about home safety, local vendors and innovative products for the home.

This year, the Anchorage Home Show is the only show, so far to feature a petting zoo with baby goats and a sandbox full of toys. In addition to activies aimed at the child in all of us, the show offered three floors worth of contractors, lenders and other housing professionals who staffed booths and answered questions. 

Visit AHFC's booth at one of the shows listed below and talk to a housing expert about financing options. While you are there, enter to win the daily drawing for an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker

Mat-Su // April 27-29
Juneau // April 27-29

Board Profile: Alan Wilson

A licensed contractor and has been in the building profession for more than 37 years, Alan Wilson is president and CEO of Alaska Renovators, Inc. in Juneau, Alaska and a founding member of Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks. Alan has been on the AHFC board of directors for more than two years, and serves as vice chair.

What would you like to share about the work that you do?
I am a home builder and remodeler based in Juneau since 1992. In all of the work (Alaska Renovators) does, we focus on energy efficiency. Making homes energy efficient adds  comfort for the homeowner. Homes that are energy efficient add peace of mind and reduce energy bills.

The 2018 AHFC Housing Assessment determined that Southeast Alaska is experiencing overcrowding and more than 3,800 homes could benefit from energy efficiency retrofitting. As an experienced contractor in that region, what advice do you give to homeowners?
AHFC's 2018 Housing Assessment is a real eye-opener for homeowners in Alaska.

Juneau homes have an average annual energy cost of $4,374. This is almost two times the national average. Approximately 50 percent of Juneau’s homes were built prior to 1980. There are an estimated 3,884 homes in Juneau (about 30 percent) that have not been retrofitted through a state program. All Juneau homes have potential for energy retrofits, with an estimated 10 percent of homes rated one star or below.

An estimated 59 percent of housing units in Juneau are drafty, according to the 2018 report. Air tightness is a priority because drafty homes are less comfortable and less energy efficient. 

I believe the majority of Alaska homes built under the AHFC rating system are more energy efficient than homes in the Lower 48.

What projects or programs at AHFC do you think are going to have the biggest impact in the next year and/or in the next 10 years?
First-time homebuyer and down payment assistance are programs that benefit all future homebuyers. AHFC’s public buildings energy upgrade program should prove to be a plus for those public organizations taking advantage of this great program.

A statewide residential building code would benefit Alaskans by helping simplify codes for builders and allow for more flexibility in home design while providing for safe and efficient homes. I believe that the quality of our homes is higher than perceived at a federal level and that is due to the lack of statewide building codes.

What have you learned during your career that would be helpful for others ?
When my friends ask me the No. 1 thing they should do when hiring a contractor, I always tell them to hire one who they can work with. You better get along. The bitterness of a bad experience outlives the sweetness of a low price.

Any other thoughts or comments?
It's a pleasure to serve on the Board of Directors at AHFC and be a part of such a positive organization that affects the lives of so many Alaskans.

Quality housing helps attract competent applicants in rural Alaska

New housing is planned to combat turnover among teachers and vacant positions vital to public health and safety with grant funding from AHFC and Rasmuson Foundation. Four communities were awarded Teacher, Health Professional, and Public Safety Housing Grants in the competitive 2018 application cycle.

“Alaskans choosing an AHFC home loan can feel good about corporate profits being reinvested in the community,” says Bryan Butcher CEO/executive director of AHFC. “The Teacher, Health Professional and Public Safety Housing Grant program is a great example of how our dividend, coupled with Rasmuson Foundation funding, is making a difference for kids, teachers, communities and the State of Alaska."

Projects awarded funding in 2018:

• Hoonah Indian Association, $550,000 to support seven units (14 bedrooms), along with office space for rotating behavioral health services.

• Village of Kasaan, $373,000 to replace a damaged trailer with a duplex intended to house teachers and provide low-income housing for a tribal member.

•  Village of Tununak, $381,000 to build a three-bedroom home. The Village has a vacant Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) position that has not been filled in nearly two years. The Village’s approach to the project development combines several funding sources to modernize infrastructure, including water, sewer and roads.

• Huslia Village Council, $550,000 to build a duplex for law enforcement and health professionals. The community has experienced a shortage of VPSOs. A health aide position has been vacant since 2016.

Senior Housing Office is a resource for seniors living independently

AHFC’s Senior Housing Office was created in Alaska statute 28 years ago to promote a comprehensive response to the needs of senior citizens for adequate, accessible, secure and affordable housing in Alaska. The office is staffed by Jim McCall, officer, housing relations.

The Senior Housing Office maintains current inventory of both independent and assisted senior housing resources throughout Alaska. The Office is connected by statute to Alaska Commission on Aging (ACoA) and reports quarterly to the gubernatorial-appointed 11 member commission. 

AHFC offers programs to assist seniors to renovate homes for improved accessibility. The Senior Access Program (grant) is offered in partnerships with local nonprofits and is based on need and income. AHFC provides three renovation options including a refinance, purchase renovation and second mortgage. An approved lender can discuss those options with you. A statewide list of all AHFC approved lenders is available here.

Jim McCall, officer-housing relations, can be reached Monday-Friday at AHFC’s Senior Housing Office, 1-800-478-2432 or at ahfc.us​.

Are You Ready For a Smart Home?

Betty Hall

The concept of a Smart Home intrigues me but it involves a lot of electronic pieces and parts that make my eyes roll into the back of my head. Let's face it, I’m from another generation. I was even skeptical about the need for Siri until I got lost in Dallas. Only then, did I utter the words, “Hey Siri”. Now I’m forever in Siri’s debt. I also appreciate she never cops an attitude when I miss a turn.

I suspect there are other people who may share my views. Sure, you can turn lights on and off, or regulate the heat or play music by voice command. I’ve turned lights on and off for years without a problem. My thermostat is programmed, thanks to the heating guy. I don’t listen to much music unless I’m in my car. Not exactly compelling reasons to get serious about a Smart Home. 

Although, I have to admit, when I’ve gone to bed and notice out of my second story window that I have left the backyard light on, it would be really nice to just tell Siri, Alexa, or Assistant to turn off the light without ever raising my head off the pillow.

There is an ever-growing list of Smart Devices that can add convenience, security and energy efficiency to our homes. Which ones are worth the cost, effort and potential security risks are up to the user. My friend Scott, solved a lighting issue in a detached building using Smart lighting. Another friend, Rob, has combined a video doorbell, smart lock and security cameras as a security system. If someone comes to Rob’s door, he gets a motion notification. Rob will also receive a notification if someone enters or attempts to enter the door code. Through his video doorbell, he can see and chat with whoever is at the door. Rob can also open his home security app and monitor the interior of his home. More information here.

I would love to hear your thoughts about or experiences with Smart Home devices. Call me at 907-330-8166 or email bhall@ahfc.us.

Betty Hall, energy information specialist can be reached Monday-Friday at AHFC’s Research Information Center located at the Dan Fauske building, 4300 Boniface Pkwy, Anchorage, AK., or online at ahfc.us.