first_imgIt’s not often that a tight housing market boasts the largest average home size in the region coupled with home prices 40 percent below the regional average and the lowest rental prices in the state. But, Wrangell also has the lowest vacancy rates statewide, making it difficult for the Wrangell Medical Center to bring on new hires.Listen nowWrangell Medical Center CEO Robert Rang has been on the job just a little over ten months. When he started, the hospital had eight nursing positions open. Six of those positions have been filled, but he said lack of housing in Wrangell has made it extremely difficult.“Personally I know of at least three just within the short period of time that I’ve been here in the past year that have declined to come on board because of the availability of housing,” Rang said.The hospital is applying for a $550,000 grant that would help fund building or buying housing for hospital staff. Rang hopes to build a four-unit complex with two to three bedrooms each.“We have a lot of travelers, both at the clinic, we work with them on providers, as well as our nursing staff here. We have a need to run through the community to make sure we have housing for those folks,” Rang said. “What we’ve noticed, there’s times of the year and even during the winter it’s very difficult to find.”Rang said in particular, rentals larger than one bedroom are hard to come by, making it harder to hire staff with kids. But, Wrangell’s tight housing market isn’t alone.Meilani Schijvens is the director of Rain Coast Data and the economic development planner for the Southeast Conference. She said housing is a barrier across Southeast.“Housing is a particular problem across the region. If you look especially at the communities of Juneau, Sitka and Skagway, there’s such limited housing in those communities,” said Schijvens. “It’s been such a barrier to entry for businesses moving in and for people moving in. In those communities, the housing costs are much higher.”Schijvens gave a report on housing needs and issues in February, expressing the need for a potential housing development on the former Wrangell Institute site. She said Wrangell has a 0 to 1 percent vacancy rate for one, two and three-bedroom rentals, the lowest in the state.“That survey is done is April. So that’s not even going into the summer. And, in the summer in Wrangell you have a lot of summer needs with the fishing industry,” Schijvens said.As for houses for sale, there were only 18 at the time of Schijvens’ report. At the hospital, six positions are still being filled by traveling staff until the new hires are fully trained and come on board. Rang told Wrangell’s Borough Assembly Tuesday that the hospital spends over $50,000 to house traveling staff.“We’ve been spending a lot of money, a lot of taking resources out of the hospital that could be used for other things, for patient care, expansions and improvements,” Rang said.As for the staff that have accepted jobs, not all have found housing.“The ones that are arriving this month, yes they have. But, they have had some challenges,” Rang said. “There is some concerns about the folks that are coming on board. They haven’t started looking yet. So I’m not sure what they’ve been able to locate.”Rang hopes to solve that problem if the hospital is awarded the grant. He said it would work with the city to find a location. The hospital would be able to purchase an existing building with the money as well.last_img read more