Assembly discusses ordinance aimed at addressing housing shortage

Assembly discusses ordinance aimed at addressing housing shortage
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 8:24 PM AKDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Helping Anchorage residents gain access to more affordable housing was the topic of discussion for the Anchorage Assembly at a work session Friday.

During the presentation, Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said less than 400 new housing units are being built each year — far below the national average of 1,500 units, and even under the Mat-Su Borough standard of 2,000 units per year.

Furthermore, Zaletel said the lack of inventory has caused home prices to skyrocket, with the average price now hitting $445,000.

Those looking to rent are not much better off with the average rent price in Anchorage at $1,353 a month, Zaletel said. She said the escalating rent prices are causing working professionals like nurses and teachers to be priced out of the market.

Assembly members feel part of the issue is Anchorage’s zoning code, which some say is too restrictive and burdensome.

Zaletel and fellow Assembly members Daniel Volland and Anna Brawley plan to introduce an ordinance in two weeks that will simplify the zoning code from 15 residential zones to just five:

  • LLR, or large lot residential
  • STFR or single-family and two-family residential
  • Compact mixed residential – low
  • Compact mixed residential – medium
  • Urban residential – high

They hope the simplification will allow for more flexibility in the zoning code and thus encourage development.

“Exclusionary zoning where you’re only allowing single-family zoning — rather than small multifamily you know, duplex, triplex four-plex — it just creates less opportunity for folks to be housed in Anchorage. It takes up a lot of our valuable land here in Anchorage,” Volland said. “How can we squeeze in more dwelling units … so we want people to have housing options and to not be rent overburdened.”

The proposal excludes Girdwood and Chugiak-Eagle River — communities where land use is not governed by Title 21 — but their representative member Kevin Cross said he likes what the proposal is trying to do.

“Our density problem is more is that we don’t build to density — we build way under the density. So you may have a lot that was zoned for eight or 10 units but because of the building restrictions or the additional requirements under Title 21, a builder may only build like a duplex, or a couple duplexes. And so what happens is a lot that was intended to provide homes for maybe a dozen families only provides housing for one or two,” Cross said.

However, former Assembly member John Weddleton is not on board with the proposal. Weddleton says the proposed ordinance has some fundamental flaws, and it is something that will bring more housing quickly — which Anchorage needs.

“Getting rid of single-family zoning and consolidating zoning has been done in other communities. But it’s not seen to be a quick way to more housing, and certainly not affordable housing, it’s not shown to do that. So they’re really taking a step that probably won’t lead to much housing in a hurry, but will distract us from doing things that they’ve been working on to get more housing in a hurry. So it’s more of a distraction,” Weddleton said.

Volland said a substitute version of the ordinance will be introduced at the Sept. 26 Assembly meeting, after which it will be “routed” through the planning and zoning process to receive input from the commissioners.