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Rural Communities to Get Teacher and Professional Housing - AHFC Awards Nine Grants for $9 Million

Nine rural communities have been selected to receive grant funds next year under Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's Teacher, Health Professional & Public Safety Professional housing program.

After a competitive review process, applications approved for new construction are for teacher housing in Mountain Village eight units, Unalaska six units, Koyuk two units, Teller four units, Napaskiak eight units, and Huslia two units. Approved for rehabilitation of existing housing units are Tanana two units and Noatak four units.

All the units are for teachers, except for Unalaska, which includes housing for health professionals and public safety professionals.

About $9 million is being awarded and is expected to leverage approximately $12 million in loans, matching funds, and other contributions. This is expected to produce housing valued at just under $21 million.

All nine of the communities selected have an urgent need for teacher housing. For instance, in Tanana where there are six teachers, there are only two rental housing units currently available. The proposed project will rehab two older vacant units that were damaged by fire.

In Teller, currently there are 10 teachers but very few rental units available. The approved project will build four new housing units, provide training in skilled labor, and employ local labor on the project. Koyuk faces a similar problem, but with 11 teachers in the school system.

"This program was initiated in response to a request from school districts that were reporting difficulty in attracting teachers to their communities," according to Dan Fauske, AHFC CEO/Executive Director. "They identified the lack of available housing as a major impediment to recruiting and retaining good teachers."

AHFC only funds housing proposals that demonstrate community support, Fauske said. "Part of the application process requires an applicant to present evidence of local support, like a resolution from the school board or a community planning determination that identifies housing for teachers as a local priority."

The teacher housing program was initiated in 2004 and later expanded to include health care and public safety professionals. In five short years, the program has made substantial progress in improving the quality and availability of professional housing in rural Alaska. School districts that had been experiencing fifty percent turnover rates now report near zero turnover rates.

To date, AHFC's professional housing program has funded the rehabilitation and new construction of 305 units of housing in 55 rural communities and produced housing valued at $92 million.

AHFC is a self-supporting public corporation with offices in 16 communities statewide. It provides statewide financing for multi-family complexes, congregate facilities, and single-family homes, with special loan options for low- to moderate-income borrowers, veterans, teachers, health care professionals, and those living in rural areas of the state.

AHFC also provides energy and weatherization programs, low-income rental assistance in 17 communities, and special programs for the homeless and those seeking to become self-sufficient. AHFC has contributed more than $1.9 billion to Alaska's state budget revenues through cash transfers, capital projects and debt-service payments.

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