Anchorage Assembly narrowly passes zoning change to allow for more duplexes

a meeting room
Anchorage Assembly members passed an ordinance on Tuesday that allows for duplexes to be built across the Anchorage Bowl. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly has changed the city’s zoning rules to allow for the construction of duplexes in every residential district in the Anchorage Bowl in an effort to increase housing.

The measure passed 7-5 Tuesday effectively ends single-family zoning in Anchorage, but doesn’t impact Girdwood or the Eagle River-Chugiak area. 

The ordinance also allows for two detached single-family units on the same lot to count as one duplex in code.

The Assembly approved the changes after a flurry of public comment and debate. More than 30 people testified Tuesday night, almost 2 to 1 in favor. Resident Emily Weiser said the changes would add more housing without drastically impacting neighborhoods.

“We’re not talking about razing whole neighborhoods,” Weiser said. “We’re talking about maybe one duplex or triplex or fourplex per neighborhood in the next 10 years.”

Before the Assembly approved the changes, a little over 40 percent of residential lots, typically categorized as low-density, prohibited the building of duplexes.

Realtor Matt Fink opposed allowing more duplexes. He said he thinks it will incentivize developers to buy up homes and convert them, impacting residents’ ability to achieve the “American dream” of owning a house.

“They’ll look at the numbers and say, because the rental market’s so tight, and they know what they can charge, they’ll start converting all these homes,” Fink said.

Teacher Scott Maxwell said there is a “dire lack of housing stock” in Anchorage. He said he spent three months homeless last summer before he was able to find a one-bedroom apartment in downtown’s South Addition neighborhood. 

“You will excuse me, everyone, if when I hear people concerned over the effects that duplexes might have to the ‘character’ of their neighborhoods, you will get no sympathy from me,” Maxwell said. “Not when I had to go through what I did last summer.”

Midtown Assembly member Meg Zaletel, one of the ordinance’s sponsors, agreed that Anchorage is in a housing crisis, and the city needs to bolster the number of homes, a major Assembly goal.

“We heard a lot of testimony about the haves and the have nots,” Zaletel said. “Instead of focusing on that, can we ask instead, how can the menu of options for creating new units of housing be as varied as possible so that the inclusive vision adopted by the Assembly is realized?”

East Anchorage Assembly member Karen Bronga and South Anchorage member Zac Johnson said they were concerned over how the zoning changes could impact areas with limited road access and higher risk of wildfires, like the Basher neighborhood in Bronga’s district and the Hillside area of Johnson’s. An amendment from the two was approved that requires an administrative site plan review for any duplex built in zoning district R-10, which includes areas built on slopes, near alpine and forested areas or with geological factors that “require unique and creative design for development.”

Ultimately, the amended ordinance passed with members Johnson, Scott Myers, Randy Sulte, Mark Littlefield and George Martinez opposed.

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Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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