Anchorage Assembly to put off vote on residential zoning reform pending planners’ review 

A house that's under construction.
Housing construction is underway for a neighborhood near Sand Lake on July 5, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

A proposal to dramatically relax Anchorage’s rules for where different types of housing can and can’t be built has been rebranded and rewritten into a more modest, more fleshed out package. 

The sponsors of the Anchorage Assembly measure say it’s meant to make it easier to build more homes, and to push the cost of housing down. But it got a lot of community pushback from residents afraid that changes would tank property values, trample community plans and fundamentally change the character of their neighborhoods. 

Now, the sponsors intend to put off a final vote on the rewrite for months, until after the city’s professional planners and a technical commission review it and make their own recommendations. 

At a work session on Friday, Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said the pivot came after “robust discussion” with the community. 

The proposal Zaletel and Assembly member Kevin Cross introduced in May was light on specifics. Now, members Daniel Volland and Anna Brawley are Zaletel’s co-sponsors. Here are some other key changes: 

  • The Anchorage Bowl’s 15 residential zoning designations would be collapsed down to five, instead of the two initially proposed. Backers say this better aligns with the city’s existing long-term plans. 
  • This version only applies to the Anchorage Bowl. Eagle River, Chugiak and Girdwood wouldn’t be affected. Cross, who represents Eagle River and Chugiak, said he withdrew his co-sponsorship because this version “respects the autonomy and independence” of his district. 
  • This version includes specifics about what land uses are allowed or not in the new zones. 

The rebranded measure is called the Housing Opportunities in the Municipality for Everyone Initiative, or the HOME Initiative. Zaletel emphasized the “everyone” part. 

“This is one of the most pressing external issues the Assembly is facing, which is the housing crisis,” Zaletel said. “This isn’t about housing opportunities for just homeowners, it’s not just about housing opportunities for those who need affordable housing rents. It’s not just about housing opportunities for those who need market rate rents. It’s for everyone.” 

The proposed residential zones generally allow for more density and more flexibility in terms of both land uses and types of buildings.

a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

Previous articleAnchorage scrambles to find enough housing for the homeless before winter sets in
Next articleAlaska marijuana businesses, citing black market, plead for tax relief