The Wrangell Cooperative Association conducted a housing survey this summer to identify needs in Wrangell’s Native community. The results are in and to tribal administrators surprise, energy efficiency took the cake with three quarters of responses listing it as the top priority. Senior housing came in third behind affordable housing.

Tribal Administrator Aaron Angerman said he expected senior housing to be number one.

“Well I think the WCA Tribal Council now does have a decision as to how to prioritize these survey results,” he said.

WCA and the Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority worked together to conduct the survey carried out by Juneau firm Rain Coast Data. Both have been working towards a potential senior housing facility in Wrangell. The former Wrangell Institute development is one possible location for that facility.

The survey data was needed to seek funding for grants, which were expected to go towards senior assisted living.

“Some of the larger funding from Housing and Urban Development, there’s the Indian Community Development Block Grant, those come up in the spring. It’s quite the process to apply for those,” said Angerman. “We’re going to have to go into the New Year with a pretty good idea of what direction we’re going. So I expect that to be addressed soon in one of the next upcoming meetings.”

Angerman expects that funding for senior housing will be delayed for about a year. The tribe and the Housing Authority are conducting energy audits for Native businesses and homes this winter to get a better picture of the energy efficiency issues.

“You got to have that baseline data. So we’re going to have to start at the very bottom and survey homes, bring in outside consultants to see how their homes are performing, how their businesses are performing,” said Angerman. “With that info, then go out and address where the problems are in the area.”

Angerman said those interested in audits can call the WCA office. According to the housing survey, about half of tribal homes were built between 1940 and 1979. The average heating bill in the winter is $520. Over half of tribal homes heat with electricity and about a third use oil.

Respondents also called for more rental opportunities. Wrangell’s rental vacancy rate hangs around 0 to 1 percent.

There were a total of 133 responses, about 59 percent of the total estimated homes with at least one occupant identifying as Alaska Native or American Indian.