That ’70s Home: How AHFC is Trying to Update Alaska’s Aging Housing Supply

Jan Miyagishima at the AHFC booth at the Juneau Home and Outdoor Living Expo. (Photo By Casey Kelly. KTOO-Juneau)
Jan Miyagishima at the AHFC booth at the Juneau Home and Outdoor Living Expo. (Photo By Casey Kelly. KTOO-Juneau)

 

Download Audio

More than half of all homes in Alaska were built in the 1970s and ‘80s.

That’s according to an Alaska Housing Finance Corp. report released last year that highlighted the need for improvements to the state’s aging housing stock.

AHFC offers a variety of loan and rebate programs aimed at home renovations and energy efficiency upgrades. Corporation officials were in Juneau over the weekend to talk about some of those programs at the Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association’s Home and Outdoor Living Expo.

Amelia Harmon just moved to Juneau from Michigan and is considering buying her first home. She’s been looking online to get a sense of the market before she starts to shop for real.

“A lot of them look like they need some work, but that’s just from the outside,” she says of the homes she’s seen thus far. “I don’t know what they look like on the inside. I don’t like to judge a book by its cover.”

Harmon and her mom came to the Juneau Home and Outdoor Living Expo to get a better idea of what’s available. She says she wants something not too pricy, but also doesn’t want to put a lot of money into a fixer upper.

“Not a home that needs too much renovations and have to put more work into it than what you paid for,” she says.
Harmon stops at the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. booth, where there’s big sign with a floral print couch on it that says, “The 70s called. They want their house back.”

Jan Miyagishima, director of mortgage operations at AHFC, says most homes in Alaska are in the 35-year and older range.

“Doesn’t sound like it’s really old if you compare it to the East Coast. But the homes are getting dated,” Miyagishima says. “If you don’t keep up your home, it will decrease in value.”

Alaska Housing offers three renovation loan programs. Homeowners can get up to $312,750 in remodeling financed by having a full appraisal done on their property. Those looking to refinance their mortgages can qualify for a package that allows them to recoup money spent on improvements over the previous year and get an additional loan up to $50,000. Finally, there’s a purchase renovation loan that allows buyers to pay for up to $50,000 worth of upgrades through their mortgage loan.

Miyagishima says all three programs require a bid from a qualified contractor for the work to be done.

“This is allowing people to get the kitchen that they want, the bathroom upgrades,” she says.

AHFC does not actually loan money itself. Instead, it works with lenders like banks and credit unions to offer home financing to Alaskans. The state-backed corporation is like Fannie Mae orFreddie Mac, in that it buys loans from these lenders, and packages them into mortgage-backed securities that are sold to private investors.

Alaska Housing also operates the state’s home energy rebate programs, which can be used in conjunction with any of its renovation loans. These programs allow homeowners to get an energy rating to identify any issues. The rebate helps pay for the cost of improvements.

“The average rebate’s right around $7,000,” says Jimmy Ord, AHFC energy programs manager.

“Most Alaskans put in somewhere around $12,000,” he says. “So there’s a good investment from the homeowner and the state in the project.”
Alaska Housing also offers energy rebates for new home construction. But in recent years, Ord says the state has averaged fewer than 2,000 new homes per year. That’s why the heavy push to improve existing housing.

“Most of the infrastructure is already in place, so we have to look at how we’re going to move that infrastructure into the next generation,” he says.

Harmon, the potential home buyer looking to lay down roots in Juneau, says right now she’s more concerned about finding the right price than she is with renovations.

“It’s more expensive up here than where I’m from down in the lower 48,” she says. “But Michigan doesn’t have the views and the stuff that Alaska has to offer.”

And she says it’s good to know that options are available should she need upgrades for whatever home she decides to buy.