Kenai has reputation for being a bargain

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

KENAI (AP) -- Kenai, the state's fourth most populous borough, is a center for both high-paying oil and gas jobs and lower-paying retail and service jobs.

While the borough has a reputation for great scenery and world-class fishing, it also is a bargain when it comes to housing costs compared to many other areas of Alaska.

Kenai resident Roxann Dodds has made the Kenai Peninsula her home for nearly a dozen years.

''It caters to people with a thrifty nature,'' Dodds said. ''It's an economy based on harvesting. If it cost much more, people wouldn't be able to live here.''

The state's fourth most populous borough is a center for both high-paying oil and gas jobs and lower-paying retail and service jobs.

While housing costs are a bargain, other costs including utilities, food and retail items, are among the highest in the more populated areas of the state.

Dodds has lived in the same one-bedroom apartment for the past 11 years, after living in Dutch Harbor. She said when she moved into her Kenai apartment, the rent was $385.

Currently, she pays less than the 2002 median for Kenai one-bedroom apartments, which is $550.

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's 2002 Annual Rental Market Survey showed the peninsula's adjusted median rents was the lowest of the state's 10 largest boroughs.

AHFC tracks six boroughs in its quarterly housing indicators report: the Municipality of Anchorage, Fairbanks North Star, Juneau, Kodiak, the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna.

The peninsula had the second lowest average price for single-family homes during the 2002 third quarter. Peninsula homes sold for an average of $143,386. Only Kodiak was lower, with an average cost of $137,647.

Low housing costs can translate to more money left over on payday. And when wages are higher, the pot is increased even more.

A state Department of Labor and Workforce Development from the 2000 census shows that on a monthly average, peninsula workers make up the third highest paid labor force in the state.

Only Anchorage and North Slope Borough workers earn more than the $2,794 peninsula workers averaged.

State labor economist Neal Fried said oil and gas jobs with higher salaries combine with lower-paying jobs from a collection of other industries to create a somewhat skewed view of the peninsula's overall average payroll. He said the same applies to Anchorage and the North Slope.

''What has a disproportionate effect on the (report) is oil, which you have a lot of,'' he said.

Kenai Peninsula oil and gas jobs earned a monthly average of $6,334 in 2000 and North Slope jobs averaged $7,040. In Anchorage, the average monthly wage in the industry sector was $8,394.

Labor department records show that these three areas of the state also lead in average monthly wages in the retail trade and service industries, which occupy the lower end of the employment pay scale.

The peninsula ranked third in both of these industries, with $1,483 in average retail trade wages, and an average of $1,610 going to service employees each month.

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