Breaking up with a significant other is often a hard thing to do. But, for some, the tight housing market in Anchorage is making it even harder.
When Katya Batishcheva had to find a new home earlier this year, she said, there just wasn’t a lot to choose from. She’s in the middle of a divorce. She said her relationship with her ex-husband had been rocky for a while, and it came to a head in the spring.
“In May, I was like, I need to move out,” she said. “He actually told me that I need to move out. But then when I actually did, he was upset, but that’s like a whole other thing.”
She and her ex lived in a townhouse, with three bedrooms, a couple bathrooms, a garage and a backyard. Their mortgage was about $2,100 a month. Batishcheva said she had to find a rental quickly for her and her two cats. It wasn’t easy.
“Currently, I live in a studio that is under 400 square feet,” Batishcheva said. “And the base rent is like $1,200. But with all the utilities and pet rent fees, it’s like slightly short of $1,400.”
Her higher monthly costs mean she has to budget differently to live in a much smaller space.
Several years ago, $1,400 a month could’ve paid for a two-bedroom apartment, or at least a bigger one-bedroom. However, experts say Anchorage housing prices have skyrocketed recently. It’s a problem for everyone — and it’s really tough when, like Batishcheva, you need to find affordable housing fast.
“If you’re in some kind of life circumstance, like a bad breakup, that means you suddenly need to get housing, you’re really going to look to that rental market,” said Nolan Klouda, executive director of the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development.
Klouda said housing prices in Anchorage have risen 30% between 2019 and 2023. When you look at the rental market, he said, rents have spiked 5% in just the last year and, like Batishcheva found, there’s just not a lot available.
“We’re around 3% or so of units being vacant, which the national level is more like, usually around 5 or 6%,” Klouda said. “So we are very tight, especially on rental housing, and that does push up prices, and it does make finding a new place to live very difficult.”
Even months after moving out, Batishcheva said she still has a lot of things at her ex’s house, and she’s still in the process of getting them all to her new place.
“I’ve brought my books, and I’ve brought some of my art stuff. I have furniture there, obviously,” she said. “But I would say I’m still not fully moved in. And I’m not sure when exactly that will happen. Because also my car broke. And it kind of complicates all of it.”
And while Batishcheva is in a position where she says she feels safe going back to her ex’s place, not all breakups are that civil.
Suzi Pearson is executive director for Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, or AWAIC. The nonprofit provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence. Typically people can stay at the shelter for 30 days, but Pearson said the tight housing market has led to more extensions lately.
“We do have a lot of people that stay for very short term, sometimes only a day, that kind of thing,” she said. “But we’ve also had people who’ve stayed here for months at a time because they haven’t been able to access housing.”
Pearson said upwards of 99% of the women that AWAIC serves are low-income, and rising rental prices mean it’s harder and harder for them to find a place to rent. In some cases, AWAIC can offer housing vouchers, but they often require a steady income.
“Being able to afford that is a real challenge for somebody who’s coming from a low income, and especially if their income is primary income has come from their partner,” Pearson said.
For Pearson, the solution to the housing crunch and its impacts on people leaving relationships is fairly straightforward.
“Build more affordable housing,” Pearson said. “We need affordable housing, because right now, like I said, the landlords have the market and they are able to have their rates at whatever, you know, there’s just, there’s not a possibility.”
It’s unlikely that the issue of a tight housing market will be solved any time soon, though there are efforts underway at the city level to look at zoning laws to encourage more development.
In the meantime, Batishcheva said it’s important for people to try to rely on friends, family and other resources to get them through their breakups.
“Building your independence is really important. Self sufficiency is important,” Batishcheva said. “But also, I think there are people who want to help. And that has really helped me even just like emotional support.”
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are looking for resources, you can call AWAIC’s 24-hour support line at (907) 272-0100.