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Housing in Homer limited amid high demand

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Summer tourists have been the primary drivers of Homer's local economy and lodging options for decades.

According to city officials, many local homes are only available for short-term leases, which essentially makes it impossible for people looking for longer-term affordable housing to find it.

Homer City Councilmember Jason Davis said Wednesday the city needs to be doing more to address the ongoing lack of housing.

"There are lots of big homes being built all around Homer, you know, in the periphery. But there's not a lot being done, as far as I can tell, to provide affordable apartments in the more central areas where people are, where people might need them. I think there's a lot more that the city can be doing, and it's something we're focusing on," Davis said.

He said summertime employees and locals searching for inexpensive housing options are all impacted by that problem.

But City Manager Rob Dumouchel said it’s challenging to determine whether local housing instability is a reality or just a perception.

He hopes to have some public engagement through meetings and community conversations later in the year to quantify the problem.

"We're attempting to really kind of put this in a box and see what our issues are, and where they are, and what we might be able to do about them," Dumouchel said. "One thing that we'll probably talk about a bit as this goes through is short-term rentals. That's something that's been a big deal for us. And again, is it just what people perceive as an issue or is it really a thing?"

Dumouchel said the city is looking at various options to help people out if they determine housing needs aren’t being met. He said that could mean restricting short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb, VRBO and other lodging companies to allow for longer-term options.

“Do we have the places for people to live? If we don't, how do we modify land use permits and control short-term rentals? How can we kind of constrict those numbers to make it fair and equitable and possible for people to actually live here and work here and move into those units?" he said.

The city is also considering providing incentives for landlords who do long-term rentals instead, Dumouchel added. However, he said that’s unlikely to happen since any meaningful incentive would come at a high cost to the city.

Simon Lopez is a long time listener of KBBI Homer. He values Kachemak Bay’s beauty and its overall health. Simon is community oriented and enjoys being involved in building and maintaining an informed and proactive community.
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