The state-owned housing agency is trying something innovative to increase access to affordable housing in Anchorage.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is developing mixed housing in East Anchorage that will combine low income apartments with regular ones.
Tucked between a trailer park and the Glen Square Mall along Mountain View Drive are 6.5 acres of property with a view of the Chugach range. A 70-unit apartment complex will soon be built here.
AHFC CEO Bryan Butcher, says it’s the beginning of what he hopes is a new direction for the organization.
“The great thing about this location is that the city of Anchorage is pretty land poor when it comes to developing housing,” Butcher said. “You can find scattered areas all over the place but there’s really not a lot of room to build housing so to find a piece of property of this size that can be developed to this extent in an area so central to downtown Anchorage as well as the Mountain View Area we’re really fortunate to have and we’re really excited about this being the kickoff of this kind of development in Anchorage.”
Butcher steps out onto what is right now an empty swath of land covered by snow. He says the development is needed in Anchorage.
“We’re especially excited about the affordable housing part of it, because Anchorage and frankly the entire state of Alaska is so short on affordable housing it’s very difficult for folks to find housing so being able to add 70 new units of housing stock to the city of Anchorage we think is tremendous,” Butcher said.
The apartments will be near employment centers, around the corner from a bus stop and within walking distance of Clark Middle School. Butcher says it’s first of a series of upcoming projects that will step away from the failing model of separating where poor people live from where everyone else does.
“It used to be there was a focus on public housing or lower income housing. And it works better as a community to have it mixed and to have a mixture of all Anchorage residents living in one area as opposed to kind of separating things out,” Butcher said.
At any given time there is just 1-2 percent vacancy rate on rentals in the city and the average 2 bedroom apartment goes for more than a thousand dollars a month.
Mark Romick is the Director of Planning for AHFC. He says the project, which is the first development by the agencies new non-profit subsidiary, will save money. Romick says with federal and state funds dwindling, the agency is looking for new ways to access money and moving toward more projects that are paid for through public private partnerships.
“They’re federal tax credits that are provided by the treasury to projects where the private sector is investing in the development of low income housing,” Romick said. “So Alaska housing through its subsidiary will be a general partner in a limited partnership with a private investor.”
Michael Courtney is Director of Operations for AHFC. He says the organization is working with local businesses and community organizations to make sure the developments meet the needs of residents and fit into the neighborhoods.
“One of the other things about AHFC is we try very hard to be a good neighbor, fit well into the neighborhoods,” Courtney said. “So we’ve been working with the Anchorage Community Land Trust, been attending the Mountain View Community Council meetings, talking to businessmen in the community to make sure that this development is going to work in well with their employees and in the neighborhood.”
The Mountain View development comes at a time when the AHFC is for the first time, putting a five-year time limit on able-bodied residents. Courtney says the Anchorage development and others like it will help those working to get out of public housing in the area find something they can afford once they graduate from the program.
“It just increases the housing opportunity in Anchorage an gives people more choices in areas that they might want to be in,” Courtney said.
Future developments could also include some commercial properties for coffee shops, cafes and retail on the street level.
The total for the Mountain View project is about $27 million. It’s set for construction in 2014.