Annette Kreitzer knows a little something about the housing market in Haines. Just as she was moving here, she faced a housing crunch of her own.

Kreitzer, the Haines Borough manager, moved to Haines in October 2021 but had lived in Juneau for 27 years, where she had a home.

“I was aware that there weren’t many houses on the market. And there weren’t many houses on the market that, frankly, I wanted to buy,” she said.

She was lucky, because a house came on the market just as she was about to make her decision on whether to move here.

“I was grateful for that,” she said.

Haines will need more housing — even as the population here is in decline.

The Chilkat Valley Housing Survey 2022-2023, released last month in a report authored by the Haines Economic Development Corporation, provides a snapshot of the housing situation in the area. Haines has a number of challenges, including incoming manufacturing and health care. The survey cites the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation as saying that many rural communities throughout the state have inadequate or overcrowded housing, and some communities have severe housing shortages. Also, many rural homes in Alaska are not connected to basic utilities such as water and sewer, which can make housing even more challenging.

The survey reports that the homeownership rate in rural Alaska is 56.7 percent, and the median home value is $191,500, and the median household income is $62,700. For urban areas, the figures are 65.1 percent, $321,000, and $81,400.

The survey notes that housing costs have gone up by 43.37 percent over five years, from $219,000 in 2016 to $314,000 in 2021. In that same time period, 17 new units were created in Haines.

In the survey, 41 percent of the responders identified as homeowners. While 39 percent are part of a multi-person household, 17 percent head up a single-person household and 2 percent identified as homeless or insecure housing. Also, 17 percent of survey respondents live with roommates, and there is an average of 2.76 people in each household.

Also, 60 percent of residents in Haines spend 20 percent or less of their income on housing, while 29.7 percent spend between 21 percent and 30 percent of their income on housing. The remainder spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Kreitzer said the survey was the result of the work by the housing working group.

“The borough assembly established the housing group because there was concern and chatter in a number of communities, not only in Haines. In Juneau, Petersburg and Ketchikan about there not being enough housing to meet the needs of the community,” she said.

So the assembly created the housing group, to see what it could do. They came up with having a survey as a starting point.

For Kreitzer, the survey didn’t hold many surprises for her.

“But my own personal experience tells me there is a shortage of that housing. There is also a shortage of housing for young people, who are trying to move from living with friends or roommates, to trying to get into what most people call a starter home,” Kreitzer said.

Although the information in the survey didn’t surprise her, Kreitzer was glad it’s all in one place.

The survey also points to some unusual barriers toward housing, such as codes that might prevent housing from being built. Kreitzer said those codes will have to be looked at to see if they need to be updated, or if there is a simple misunderstanding over what is and what is not allowed.

“That will be our next step, to look at some of the pieces of code, particularly accessory apartments,” she said.

That could mean a space above a garage, or an extra room, either of which could be converted into housing. Or even short-term rentals for people who live here for only part of the year. That will come up at a future assembly meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet, Kreitzer said.

So far, there are housing projects being built in Haines — for Szymanski and Hilltop. And there is another project slated for near Mount Riley. Plus, the borough has just received the LIDAR data — which reveals information on whether an area is in danger of landslides — on another project in the future.

Cindy Zuluaga Jimenez, executive director of the Haines Economic Development Corporation, noted that the population of Haines has seen a decline over the last five years. COVID-19 hasn’t helped. But sometime in the next three years, the borough will face a housing shortage.

“I’d hate to say that we’re not yet in a dire housing crunch. But if we don’t act soon, we will be looking at that sooner than later,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez pointed to possible development that could cause a severe housing crunch, including a mine coming in. She added that there is land available, but many of these properties do not yet have utility access.

You can add utilities to those areas, but that will cost almost double. In fact —

“It’s almost gonna cost you as much as that lot was,” she said.

Jimenez said she would work with the borough on housing. She recommended that the borough reduce some of the restrictions on building, and also get the word out to residents so that people are more informed as to what the regulations are.

Jimenez is also working with the city on creating new documents that would make things more clear as to what is and isn’t allowed. She hopes to have that information out by fall, in preparation for building in the following year.

“I’m hoping that is enough of a Band-Aid until we can get our housing situation up and running in Haines,” she said.