This is not to romanticize the more unpleasant aspects of honest, good ol' Appalachian-style crack-house livin' - Fairbanks is home to some of the most appalling displays of disgusting greed exhibited by landlords I've ever seen. Providing a home is secondary to making a profit, as they routinely extort insane rents from people for living conditions that are at best third-world caliber, in a sort of passive class-warfare that points up the ever-widening discrepancies between the have and the have-nots. Much of the American Dream seems to be a spawning-run to get ahead just enough to screw over everybody else left behind to rot (caveat: this is tempered by the above-average number of folks who are active in supporting non-profits in Fairbanks). I love reading about patronizing perspectives on the barbaric squalor of other poor countries when we have outstanding examples right here in this community: it tends to get legitimized and mythologized as that uniquely Northern Way of Life, while the populace is morally anesthetized to the distorted reality of the shoddy situation.
One example would be of how in the past twenty-five years when I first moved up here, I've seen rent for a simple 18 x 24' one-room cabin, without indoor plumbing, double, and in some cases triple, from the average $250 to the bare-minimum of $6-800 a month. It's illuminating and depressing to travel around the Lower 48 and compare how much that would get you someplace else, even though things are bad and times are tight all over.
I always remember feeling like the sourdough exhibit in a museum of natural history for visiting family and friends, who were like anthropological tourists marveling at the cute little frontier homesteaders, until it was time to grit their teeth, drop their pants and take a shit in a hole in the ground ... best at forty-below-zero. You bet it "builds character" - mine is usually about a five-foot high stalagmite about this time of the season.