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‘Self-Help’ Housing Project Needs Land to Get Off Ground in Nome

Four new homes in Stebbins
Four out of the eight homes built by the Stebbins Housing Authority. Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM.

Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RurAL CAP) is looking to build eight units in Nome as part of a mutual “self-help” housing pilot project. The organization paid a visit to the community last year but has not yet been able to begin construction.

As Mi’shell French, the homeownership program manager, says, they still need one more piece of the puzzle before the building phase can start.

“The last thing is finding land, eight buildable lots, and we have not been able to do that yet. So, we are probably looking at more like 18 to 24 months out at this point.”

According to Carla Burkhead, the home improvement planning manager, the eight lots of land have to be within city limits and only need to be a standard size.

“It’s just finding the right pieces for this project that are in town, shovel-ready. And I don’t want to say it’s a huge hang up for us, because I really believe that this going to work out and we’re going to find these parcels. I just think that if we really want this to happen sooner than later, then we need to keep moving forward in buying the land.”

At this time, Burkhead says the organization does not have any pending contracts or negotiations for potential land sales in Nome.

So far, RurAL CAP has had success in building 80 or more homes, mostly in the Southcentral area. But the units being proposed for Nome will be adapted to handle the challenges that come with living further north.

“We’re making it for the rural Arctic region, where we have to have adjustable foundations and more insulation, more energy efficiencies.”

That’s Rudy Rudisel, the architect for RurAL CAP’s pilot project in Nome; he’s lived in town off and on for decades. In Rudisel’s opinion, despite the cost of materials and limited selection of products in the area, he believes these homes are a good fit for Nome compared to other housing projects.

“Where a lot of times, previous government projects, they are designed, shipped in, and they have no idea what we need to have in rural Alaska. They don’t have the right insulation, enough insulation; they don’t realize that we have to adjust the foundation; don’t allow for wind; sometimes, they don’t even put Arctic entries in their buildings.”

Burkhead reiterates that Rudisel’s designs will include Arctic entryways, cold space for storage, and other features that community members requested, as long as RurAL CAP can keep the cost affordable.

When considering the extra expenses of shipping materials into Nome, Burkehead and French say their organization has great relationships with businesses that can help meet their needs. They also keep costs down by ordering enough for multiple families to use as they build several homes at once.

Once RurAL CAP finds a seller and acquires the land in Nome, then the mutual self-help housing program will be able to get off the ground. In the meantime, interested families must make do with the limited housing options available in an area already struggling with overcrowding and housing shortages.

If you would like more information about this project, contact Mi’shell French at RurAL CAP by calling 907-260-3451.

Image at top: file photo: residences in Stebbins, circa 2016. Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM.

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