Working Together To Find Affordable Housing Solutions
By Mark Romick, Alaska Housing Deputy Executive Director
Housing affordability is a critical challenge across the state of Alaska.
Whether looking to buy or to rent, the costs and lack of availability have made it difficult for many Alaskans to find safe, affordable housing. The issue is even more serious when it comes to affordable housing for lower income families.
Understanding What’s Behind The Housing Shortage
There are many factors that have led to the affordable housing shortage.
Housing inventory is low. Demand continues to increase. Building costs and interest rates are rising. Supply chain issues, workforce shortages and inflationary pressures (including on home heating fuels), are impacting every aspect of the industry.
These are some of the challenges I heard during a recent legislative panel I participated in that provided an overview of the affordable housing issue. The Alaska House of Representatives Labor and Commerce Committee invited us for a two-hour hearing to share our perspectives on some of the causes and challenges, as well as opportunities to work toward solutions for Alaskans.
The Importance Of Working Together
Collaboration between the public and private sectors is crucial, and is the Alaskan way.
Every community is unique, which allows local governments to use the full flexibility they have to incentivize development in both restricted and unrestricted housing.
Community-specific tools such as tax abatements, density bonuses, capital investments and other strategies are being used to assist in developing affordable housing throughout the state.
We have seen examples of this across Alaska. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly recently approved a housing incentive for new construction of multi-family units. The Municipality of Anchorage has proposed tax abatements on accessory dwelling units (often known as “mother-in-law apartments”). And housing has been a hot topic in Juneau, where members of the Juneau Economic Development Council and Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association recently discussed the challenges.
Programs Are Helping Alaskans
Creating more housing is a necessary, long-term step in addressing the issue – and there is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet solution.
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation continues our collaboration with partners across the state to provide options for individuals with affordable housing concerns and to share the experiences we’ve had as a leader in this conversation for the past 50 years.
That history is among the reasons why Alaska Housing Rent Relief was set-up last year by policymakers in AHFC. It has since provided more than $256 million in funds and assisted nearly 66,500 Alaskans. We also recently closed the application period for Alaska Housing Homeowner Assistance, but not before more than 10,000 applications were submitted.
Lastly, AHFC, in conjunction with multiple organizations statewide, has developed a homeless stabilization program that places homeless families and individuals into housing as quickly as possible.
Since the program began in February, more than 245 households have been helped with 329 individuals currently housed. The possibility to help even more Alaskans is tremendous, thanks to the federal funding we received through various COVID-19 recovery bills.
A Commitment To Alaskans
Many of the housing challenges we are facing existed prior to COVID-19; however, the issues have in many cases become more pronounced because of the pandemic. Our recent work demonstrates how, through a combination of collaboration and grit, our partnerships are making a tangible difference in the lives of Alaskans.
We welcome continued dialogue about how to expand access to safe, quality, affordable housing and invite you to visit our website for programs that may be relevant in your communities so that together we continue to rise to the challenge of meeting the needs of Alaskans.