Some employers in Alaska are building housing for workers, aiming to combat a severe labor shortage.

That includes Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, which is building a $6.6 million facility designed for employees in middle management, who are increasingly struggling to find affordable housing there. Elsewhere in Alaska, there are efforts to convert former military barracks and a portable Space Force camp into worker lodging.

Employers hope the new housing will help find and retain workers while relieving pressure on extremely tight housing markets that have reduced rental options in many towns.

The labor and housing crunch has become an especially urgent issue for many communities in Alaska, intensifying during the pandemic.

“Things were bad before, but now we’re getting to desperate times,” said Krystal Hoke, a real estate agent and Girdwood resident.

In Girdwood, Alyeska Resort recently broke ground on a new three-story building. It will house 120 people in about 70 studio and one-bedroom apartments.

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Sacha Jurva, general manager of the Alyeska Resort, said the lack of housing has contributed to a shortage of workers at the resort, which recently opened an outdoor spa.

The new housing should increase employee longevity and help the resort attract employees, Jurva said. It’s set to open by next summer.

Residents say Girdwood’s housing and labor market have been hit by the same forces affecting many Alaska towns.

Landlords are increasingly renting to tourists through Airbnb and other websites, taking long-term rentals off the market. Soaring demand for home ownership, driven by low interest rates during the pandemic, added to the problem. Meanwhile, workers are limited across Alaska as tourism heats up, two years after unemployment shot to record-high rates during the pandemic.

Hoke said rooms rarely go up for rent in Girdwood anymore. If they do, there’s a line of people who need it, it won’t be cheap — and the place might come without plumbing.

“Finding anything below $1,500 a month is very difficult,” Hoke said.

That’s pricing many of the town’s service workers out of the market, she said. Teachers and other professionals have also had to leave Girdwood because of the situation, said Hoke, a member of the Girdwood Land Trust, a nonprofit working on its own plan to build more housing for workers in the town.

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Marco Zaccaro, a Girdwood architect whose firm is designing the Alyeska project, said it will free up rental space in Girdwood as some Alyeska workers move into the building.

Some of the town’s workforce lives in cars and tents pitched in the woods because they can’t afford a place, Zaccaro said.

That was designed to house lower-level workers like lift attendants, he said.

“Now everyone is getting hit, so this is more for mid-management,” he said. “They don’t want to live in a cabin without running water.”

In Hoonah, a Southeast Alaska village, the Huna Totem Alaska Native village corporation imported a man camp that had been used at the Clear Space Force Station Base about 80 miles outside Fairbanks.

The camp, with 48 beds and 24 rooms, was barged down this spring to provide lodging for the corporation’s workers at the Icy Strait Point cruise ship destination, said Fred Parady, chief operating officer with Huna Totem.

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In Homer, population 6,000, the lack of housing is contributing to a worker shortage that limits businesses from growing, said Brad Anderson, head of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.

Anchor 907, a government contracting company in Homer owned by two Navy retirees, has proposed creating housing by importing surplus military barracks from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

“It’s badly needed,” Anderson said. “We are approaching 300 unfilled jobs, and we don’t have any available housing.”

Michael Daniel, co-owner of Anchor 907, said the growth in vacation rentals has severely hurt the long-term rental market.

Some workers in towns are staying in sheds and trailers, he said. A cabin without plumbing was recently available for $1,100 a month, and only for six weeks.

“A yurt is going for $2,100 a month, with no running water, between June and September, on Airbnb,” he said. “It just shows you how impossible it is for workers here.”