The front page of the Juneau Empire on June 19, 1994. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The front page of the Juneau Empire on June 19, 1994. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Empire Archives: Juneau’s history for the week ending June 22

Three decades of capital city coverage.

Empire Archives is a series printed every Saturday featuring a short compilation of headline stories in the Juneau Empire from archived editions in 1984, 1994 and 2004.

This week in 1984, for the first time in several years hundreds of homes are sitting on vacant lots in the capital city, creating a glut in the housing market, say local real estate agents and bankers. The Juneau Multiple Listing Service, which lists properties for 12 local real estate firms, shows 150 single-family houses for sale, and many more being sold by owners, according to Bob Barbutti of Alaska Coastal Homes. “It’s definitely a buyer’s market right now,” he said. “People are being more selective about their property purchases. We’re seeing price reductions and the owner willing to negotiate on price and seeing the seller participate in the closing costs. These things didn’t happen several years ago. The Juneau housing market has been hopping the last two years following a statewide vote to keep the capital in Juneau rather than move it to Willow, near Anchorage. That vote and a resultant population increase — from 21,000 to over 27,000 in two years — sparked a home construction boom.

Today Juneau’s housing market is suffering from a crisis-level shortage, especially of affordable housing, and the city is seeing a long-term population decline. The decline is expected to continue for some years into the future, barring major happenings such as the possibility the U.S. Coast Guard may homeport an icebreaker — which will mean several hundred additional residents consisting of crew and their family members — in Juneau within a few years.

Original Story: “For sale: Sign of the times as more area owners put houses on the market,” by Debbie Reinwand Rose. 6/19/1984.

This week in 1994, Sarah Buffington let loose with a dose of pepper spray outside her tent as a precaution against bears, giving herself and her three children choked throats and burning eyes. It might just have been an embarrassing vacation moment, but Buffington and her family aren’t on vacation. They are living in a tent near a creek on Douglas Island. Buffington, mother of a 5-, 7 and 8-year-old, has a voucher for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. that would subsidize her rent — if only she could find a place. If she doesn’t find a rental by July 15 her voucher will expire and she will go to the bottom of the waiting list. “There are 350 families on the waiting list, from people living in a mini-storage, living in a car, living on a boat, people who have a place but every dollar goes toward rent,” Amy Hiley with the AHFC in Juneau said. While looking for a rental, Buffington, 29, attends classes at the University of Alaska Southeast. Days she tries to do her homework. Nights she wards off bears, bugs and doubts.

Original Story: “Tight housing hits home,” by Carole Healy. 6/19/1994.

This week in 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives was poised to pass an Interior appropriations bill that would prohibit any money for new timber roads in the Tongass National Forest. The bill was amended Wednesday by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, making the road funding off-limits. Opponents of the measure said the amended version of the bill will be the final nail in the coffin for Alaska’s struggling timber industry. The proposal still awaits approval by the U.S. Senate and President George Bush. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a press release that she would work to reverse the amendment in the Senate. “Without some road funding, the industry will die, putting another 1,000 Alaskans and their families out of work and killing an industry that already is just a shadow of its former self,” Murkowski said. In 2003, the timber industry harvested about 50 million board feet of timber from the 17-million-acre rain forest. About 30,000 board feet of timber represents approximately 1 acre of forest.

Today the timber industry has a greatly reduced presence, with some entities that used to harvest lumber such as Sealaska Corp. instead leaving forests untouched in exchange for carbon credit payments. President Joe Biden also reinstated the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest, in the latest back-and-forth skirmish by presidential administrations that has gone on for more than two decades.

Original Story: “House blocks funds for Tongass roads,” by Timothy Inklebarger. 6/18/2004.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at or (907) 957-2306.

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