Partnering with Housing Authorities to Serve Alaska

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As a member of the Association of Alaska Housing Authorities (AAHA), Alaska Housing Finance Corporation works closely alongside 14 regional housing authorities serving 196 tribes to bring affordable housing solutions to Alaskans.

Quarterly AAHA meetings provide an opportunity for leaders from member organizations to share insights, communicate community needs and ask for feedback from their peers.

AAHA Executive Director Colleen Dushkin explained what makes the partnership successful.

“Alaska Housing understands that the regional housing authorities are the experts on their communities. By actively participating in AAHA meetings, there is an opportunity to share and learn.”

– Colleen Dushkin, Executive Director, the Association of Alaska Housing Authorities

A Partnership Case Study

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alaska Housing Rent Relief presented an opportunity for AAHA members to partner for the benefit of Alaskans.

“When AHFC developed the application portal for Rent Relief they engaged with AAHA members to understand what would be needed in order to make it successful,” Dushkin said.

Sharing Resources

She explained that Daniel Delfino, AHFC’s Director of Planning and Program Development, would regularly request that Dushkin schedule additional AAHA meetings to present the program plan, including fund distribution, and ask for feedback.

Dushkin gave the example of informational toolkits that AHFC made and distributed to the regional housing authorities to help them get the word out about Rent Relief. “Not all of the regional housing authorities have their own communications teams,” she explained but spreading the word to all Alaska communities was crucial.

Sharing certain application data with AAHA members was another way that AHFC partnered to provide a better experience to Alaskans. Breaking down data by zip code and searching by household allowed regional housing authorities and AHFC to ensure that applicants didn’t apply for the same assistance more than once.

Dushkin said that Rent Relief was a good example of how partnership between AAHA members had real significance for Alaska families.

“Deploying that funding in an efficient manner had an impact that can be seen on the ground. If our housing authorities had to distribute the funding alone it could have taken longer to build the infrastructure to deploy the funds. Working together got the funding to their communities effectively.”

Building on Collaboration

Looking to the future, Dushkin said that while partnership and trust were already present within the member organizations of AAHA, the success of Rent Relief has had a positive effect.

“Seeing collaboration between housing authorities and AHFC probably did build more trust in our communities where there might not be public housing,” she said. “It provided an opportunity for our communities to be more curious about AHFC.”

Alaska Housing Rent Relief was a case study of a successful AAHA partnership but not the only important project being tackled. Dushkin said that she hopes Rent Relief created more awareness in communities about the work of AHFC.

Looking to the Future

AHFC’s weatherization programs and housing development for teachers, health professionals and public safety officials are two examples of ongoing efforts to meet big needs across the state not specific to the pandemic. Dushkin said that AHFC CEO/Executive Director Bryan Butcher and Director of Research and Rural Development Jimmy Ord are two regular members of AAHA conversations and that she is excited about their continued partnership to meet housing challenges.

“The foundation of the partnership’s success is AHFC leadership actively participating in our meetings,” Dushkin said. “They can tell you about the dynamics in our rural communities and the challenges in these places because of what they learn from other AAHA members.”