A former hotel in Midtown Anchorage that the city bought more than two years ago is weeks away from reopening as low-income housing.
Shelter and housing operator Henning Inc. signed an agreement with the city’s real estate department at the end of June to use the building for the time being.
“We’re ready to move people in now, if we had the approval,” Henning community liaison Rob Seay said on Monday.
He said Henning plans to move paying renters into the former Golden Lion Hotel on 36th Avenue after the Anchorage Assembly approves a long-term lease. The lease authorization to Henning is on the Assembly’s agenda for introduction at its meeting Tuesday, putting it on track for a public hearing and final vote on July 25. Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration intends to lease it for $1 a year to Henning. The Assembly also has a $250,000 grant on its agenda to Henning to help with start-up expenses.
The operation isn’t expected to rely on ongoing funding from the city. Seay said the tenants will pay their rent of about $800 a month through a combination of work, housing vouchers or other benefits they receive.
Seay said Monday they have 17 people ready to move in. He expects all 80 available rooms will fill quickly. Henning is taking referrals through the coordinated entry process, which service agencies use to prioritize housing opportunities for the most vulnerable people.
“It’s time, you know?” Seay said. “We’ve been working with these individuals for the last three years. You know, a lot of people that have made that transition from shelter that are ready for housing, and so we’re looking forward to continue to work with them through this process.”
The former hotel has been the subject of local controversies and shifting plans as local elected officials turned over. The hotel shutdown in 2020, when the city bought it to convert to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Mayor Dave Bronson killed that plan when he took office in 2021. Later that year, a hastily stood up COVID-19 pandemic treatment center raised profiteering concerns about an operator with ties to Bronson. The hotel was also part of a plan at one point for last winter’s emergency shelter system, before the Assembly and mayor settled on converting it into permanent, low-income housing.
Alexis Johnson, the mayor’s homelessness coordinator, said the administration is excited about the additional housing.
“Anchorage needs housing more than ever, and so any amount of rooms that we can get up and running we’re grateful for,” she said.