The Kenai Peninsula has a reputation for having the most diverse economy in the state, but how does the cost of living compare to other areas of the Alaska? Is the peninsula the cheapest place to live like many people believe?
The answer to this question isn't a simple yes or no. This question requires looking at a lot of variables, such as the cost of housing, food, utilities and fuel, as well as wages.
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Research and Analysis Section's Alaska Rental Market Survey, the highest median rents were reported in the city and borough of Juneau at $850, followed by Valdez-Cordova at $800. The lowest median rents were found in Kenai at $600 and Wrangell-Petersburg at $550. Ten areas were surveyed and compared for the study.
The survey also reports that for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment rental was $550, for a two-bedroom the median was $600 and for a three-bedroom it was $725. The Kenai Peninsula Borough had a median rental cost of $588 for a one-bedroom, single-family residence, $650 for a two-bedroom, $850 for a three-bedroom and $960 for a four-bedroom.
Each year the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Rural Alaska, Cooper-ative Extension Service conducts a "Cost of Food at Home for a Week in Alaska" survey. It selects certain items and then compares how much it would cost to purchase those items at 19 different locations, 18 of which are in state, with Portland, Ore., being the one exception. Comparisons such as these often play a big role in relocation decisions.
According to UAF's 2003 survey's third-quarter findings, for a family of two, age 20 to 50, the most expensive places to purchase a week's worth of groceries were Bethel at $109.59, Nome at $104.47 and Dutch Harbor at $98.93. Kenai-Soldotna placed in the upper end of the lower third of the localities at $72.09 per week. The cheapest in-state areas were Anchorage at $62.16, Fairbanks at $66.42 and Ketchikan at $67.07.
For a family of four, with children ages 6 to 11, the most expensive places to purchase a week's worth of groceries were again Bethel at $186.07, Nome at $177.38 and Dutch Harbor at $167.80. The cost in the Kenai-Soldotna area was $122.39 per week. The cheapest localities were Anchorage at $105.54, Fairbanks at $112.77 and Ketchikan at $113.88.
The UAF survey also gives a breakdown of utilities, fuel and lumber. The most expensive area to receive 1000 kwh of electricity was Bethel at a cost of $238.95. Kenai-Soldotna was $113.80 to receive 1000 kwh, and the cheapest locality was Juneau at $86.85.
For a 100-pound refill of propane, the most expensive location was again Bethel at $126.50, while Kenai-Soldotna was $48.14, and the cheapest area was Fairbanks at $38.70. For 55-gallons of unleaded gasoline Bethel was at the top of the list with a cost of $162.75, while Kenai-Soldotna was $103.68, and the cheapest area to fill an automobile was the Mat-Su region at $45.33.
According to the UAF survey, the most expensive place to purchase a 2-by-4-by-8-foot piece of lumber was Nome, with the cost being $5.40. In Kenai-Soldotna the same piece of lumber cost $3.42. The cheapest place to purchase the wood was the Mat-Su region at $2.45.
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Research and Analysis Section's 2002 second-quarter figures for average monthly earnings, the total monthly earnings for Alaska was $2,686,550,927. The Anchorage municipality saw the highest monthly earnings at $1,336,130,673, while the Kenai Peninsula Borough saw earnings of $150,875,049, and the least earnings were in the Haines Borough with $5,314,373.
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