State data shows short-term rentals could be impacting long-term rental options

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development says data on short-term rentals in Alaska is very limited.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 7:47 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In the summer of 2021, Renae Shockley uprooted her family of five and moved from Nevada to Fairbanks after accepting a new job offer. For three months, Shockley and her family searched for a place to rent.

“There was nothing available that was big enough,” Shockley said. “Everything was either seasonal, full, or sorry you have too many pets.”

In June, the family arrived in Fairbanks with still no place to live. When they could not find a place to live, the family camped for three weeks.

“We were essentially homeless for the first month,” Shockley said. “We had three incomes, we just didn’t have a place to live because nothing was available.”

It isn’t just happening in Fairbanks — the Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports low vacancy rates are limiting renters across the state.

In Ketchikan, Heather Williams was experiencing a similar situation to Shockley. In the fall of 2022, Williams struggled to find a place to move into after the lease ended on her two-bedroom apartment lease ended. With nothing on the market, she was forced to live in her car with her dog for several months during the winter.

“The hardest thing was telling myself to keep going,” Williams said.

From November of 2022 to late April of this year, Williams searched for a place to live.

“For probably the first four months there just wasn’t any place to find,” Williams said. “We probably went through half a dozen that they said I couldn’t move into because of the price.”

State-wide, Alaska saw a 7% increase in rental prices, according to the Department of Labor and Work Force Development. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough, where Williams lives, saw the biggest jump in rental prices. The cost for a two-bedroom apartment jumped 16% from 2022.

But on top of the rent prices, Williams said, short-term rentals made it hard for her to find affordable and available housing.

“A whole bunch of them popped up, which took up one- and two-bedrooms, a lot of the cottages, a lot of the condos. I saw a lot of familiar apartments that were advertised on the Airbnb that used to be apartments,” Williams said.

The data on short-term rentals in Alaska, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development said, is very limited.

“‘It’s not clear how many units in Alaska are moving from long-term to short-term, but national studies have found that in other parts of the country, short-term rentals can deplete long-term rental stocks,” the department reported in its Economic Trends report.

In Fairbanks, Shockley said short-term rentals also made it difficult for her to find a place to live.

“All I was able to find was those short-term, no more than a month because it’s an Airbnb. And the price is so high, then with three incomes we couldn’t do it,” Shockley said.

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, Airbnb can restrict the supply of long-term rentals.

“My husband is under the opinion tourism is causing the homeless because everything is going to Airbnb and there is nothing available for those who live here,” Shockley said.

Williams said she was able to find a one-bedroom apartment to rent with her dog at the end of May. She is currently paying $1,500 in rent — $250 more than before — but said she is lucky. While in Fairbanks, Shockley and her family were able to purchase a home.

Alaska’s News Source reached out to VRBO and Airbnb for comment on the matter. Airbnb said it is working on a statement.