The Haines Economic Development Center (HEDC) is surveying residents’ experiences and feedback on Haines’ current housing environment. The survey, distributed by HEDC, takes about ten minutes to complete and will be accessible online through links on the borough and HEDC’s web pages.

The Borough’s Housing Working Group met last Thursday to revise survey questions.

Board member Rob Goldberg added the question ‘Do you own a house, cabin, or accessory apartment that is unoccupied for all or part of the year? If yes, would you consider renting it?’ “It’s my feeling there are a lot of empty dwellings that could be rented out if the property owners were so inclined,” Goldberg said. “A lot of that talk was about getting developers to develop new housing but I think there’s a lot of existing housing that’s just sitting empty.”

Borough Manager Annette Kreitzer suggested removing a question surveying support for community housing.

“We don’t really have an appropriate parcel of land for a community land trust,” Kreitzer said. “Knowing that it’s not really bound for success, I’d hate to leave a question in there for people to think ‘oh yeah, that’s an option’ when we just don’t have something that would work for that particular purpose.”

The group motioned to keep the question and define community housing more clearly.

Another question surveyed residents’ support for increasing taxes on short-term vacation rentals. As of April 2022, there are 47 vacation rentals in Haines, three of which are hotels, according to a memo by Dave Long.

“We’re still short of the number of hotel rooms we used to have in Haines,” Mayor Doug Olerud said. “We’re trying to expand in the summertime with Beer Fest and the bike race and we have times where there’s not enough room available. We do want long-term rentals, but these short-term AirBnb types are definitely taking some of that off of not having as much hotel space.”

Huling said the rise of vacation rentals is a “core concern for young professionals and families”, suggesting an “intervention” from the borough and “market-based solutions such as land sales.”

In June 2022 there were 60 listings for houses dedicated to vacation rentals in Haines, according to AirDNA, a company that tracks vacation rental data across the country.

“For members of our community that are no longer willing to move with the seasons, but not yet able to buy property, it is nearly impossible to find adequate long-term housing in Haines at this time,” Huling said in an email.

Kreitzer proposed to survey how many residents are considering moving to senior housing with supportive services. “There’s a point in time where people start to think about moving closer to a hospital, moving closer to family, closer to a support system,” Kreitzer said.

“When I bought property here in Haines in 1984, I was close to the median age in town, I was 28,” Goldberg said. “I think I’m still close to the median age and I’m about to turn 67.”

Kreitzer added the questions, “If you prefer to own, what kind and what size of home do you look for?” and “If you prefer to rent, what kind and what size of home do you look for?”

Other questions ask about whether residents are considering buying a home and when, what percentage of their income goes toward housing, what residents can afford for rent or mortgage and how they rate cost of living.