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Anchorage Assembly supports creation of an Alaska Housing Trust

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Families facing housing insecurity in Alaska is an issue that statistics say is only getting worse, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Anchorage Assembly and a local nonprofit want to see Alaska catch up with what other states are doing to tackle housing insecurity.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey found that more than 30% of Alaskan adults live in homes that are not current on rent or mortgages, where eviction is likely in the next two months, according to a resolution brought forward by assembly member Forrest Dunbar and Vice Chair Chris Constant.

Additionally, between January and November of 2021, more than 15,000 Alaskans accessed homeless services, according to the resolution text.

According to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, the state’s vacancy rate dropped in 2021, from 9.2% in 2020 to 5.9%, the resolution states. In Anchorage, that rate is 4.3%.

The resolution submitted by Dunbar and Constant and recently passed by the assembly supports the creation of the Alaska Housing Trust, which would be a statewide funding source that would work to “produce, preserve, and protect housing,” according to documents provided by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness.

”I do know that a lot of landlords in Anchorage decided to sell their properties because of the strong real estate market,” said Owen Hutchinson, director of external relations for the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness.

He added that another reason some landlords decided to sell their properties is because it was just too work during the pandemic. Dunbar said the lack of inventory is creating a supply and demand issue.

“The increase of price for rents, the increased assessments, the really limited stock when people are purchasing homes — it’s become a real challenge,” Dunbar said.

To address the issue, the assembly passed the resolution to support the creation of a statewide housing trust at the state level. The trust would be funded with $60 million dollars from the Alaska’s portion of 2021 America Rescue Act Funds, and $10 million of that would go toward grants to jumpstart housing projects in fiscal year 2023.

“Part of theory of the (Alaska) Housing Trust is, in the short term you would try to spur some construction, but over the long term you have a sustainable funding source to build more affordable housing,” Dunbar said. “Not just in Anchorage, but all over the state.”

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness said Alaska is one of three states that do not have a statewide housing trust. Owens said it would be a useful tool here in Alaska to help subsidize housing projects.

“The cost of construction in Alaska is much higher than the Lower 48, and if you go outside of Anchorage or Juneau it goes up enormously,” Hutchinson said.

Dunbar said places like Anchorage have a limited amount of buildable land, which drives costs up.

According the resolution and the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness documents, funds will generally be made available in the form of grants for nonprofits and public housing authorities, and will target households in the 0-80% area median income, as well as zero interest loans for private developers that meet 80-20% area median income requirements.

“Qualifying projects are eligible for grants and loans up to $50,000 per housing unit created, or for other eligible uses on a similar per unit basis,” a fact sheet on the trust from the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness reads. “For profit-developer projects utilizing AHT funds for housing must reserve at least 20% of units for tenants with gross incomes at 80% or less AMI for at least ten years or the life of the loan.”

In the end, the hope is that Alaska has a housing trust in place by the end of this legislative session.

The Alaska Housing Trust is still being discussed at the state level, and the the goal is for the fund to reach $150 million within the first decade through state, federal, and philanthropic contributions.

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