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Report: Fairbanks-area housing most affordable in Alaska

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Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 12:21 am | Updated: 12:06 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS – Fairbanks residents may be getting skewered by high energy costs, but they can take some relief from a report that states the homes they’re paying a premium to heat are relatively affordable.

According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Fairbanks North Star Borough has the most affordable housing of eight regions studied in the state. Using local averages, it takes 1.2 wage earners to buy a typical home, the lowest among the areas examined in the department’s December issue of “Alaska Economic Trends.”

Tied atop the list of most expensive areas is Juneau and Kodiak Island, which both require 1.61 average wage earners to buy a home. Those areas are followed by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough (1.54 wage earners), Bethel (1.49), Mat-Su Borough (1.47), Anchorage (1.45) and the Kenai Peninsula (1.21). The statewide average is 1.32 earners to buy a home.

Some Mat-Su homeowners can claim more affordable housing, but only if they commute to Anchorage for work. Because of the relatively higher pay offered in Alaska’s largest city, it requires just 1.07 wage earners to buy a Mat-Su home on an Anchorage job.

The report notes, however, that the equation doesn’t factor in the high price of their commute.

“With high gasoline prices, the cost can be significant when considering the frequency and length of the drive between Mat-Su and Anchorage,” the report states.

The report said housing continues to become more affordable in the state, mainly because of declining interest rates. While the average housing price in Alaska has remained fairly steady during the past five years at about $275,000, interest rates have fallen nearly 2 percent since 2007.

The report doesn’t factor in some factors in affordability, including the cost of insurance, property taxes and utilities, stating it is difficult to measure those costs consistently.

The housing affordability report is a contrast to the most recent national survey on utilities costs, which places Fairbanks atop 304 U.S. urban areas. Local residents paid 143 percent more than the average utility cost in the third quarter of 2012, according to the survey by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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