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Community leaders seek solution to Barrow housing shortage

By Bonney Bowman 9:36 AM December 6, 2013

Most single-family homes are home to several generations, while rising rents triggered by the growing housing shortage prompted many families to move in together to keep costs livable.

BARROW – Four decades after the North Slope Borough built most of the homes in Barrow, the town at the top of the world faces a serious housing shortage.

Most single-family houses are home to several generations. Rising rents triggered by the growing housing shortage prompted many families to move in together to keep costs livable. But the obvious solution – building more homes – has proven too expensive for the borough.

“It’s not going to be a quick fix,” said Michael Aamodt, president of the North Slope Borough Assembly. “It’s something we’ve known about for a while, but trying to solve it has really been a difficult task.”

Now, community leaders believe they’re nearing a solution.

Donald Long, a mayoral advisor, has been working on the idea with his staff members for more than a year. The plan would help people talk to banks, secure a loan, find a lot and build a house. If residents preferred to stay in their current homes, the program could help secure funding for much-needed expansions and improvements.

Since most residents have lived in borough-built homes for decades, though, Long said the proposed housing plan would mean a major cultural shift.

“The response is going to be, not really hostile, but it’s going to be, ‘Why? Why are you doing that?’” Long said. “Well, we’re doing a lot of these things trying to illustrate to him that there’s more benefits to you owning your own home than renting.”

Currently, Long said 17 Barrow residents are interested in using the program as a means to building their own home.

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