[Photo 1: Loussac Place]
Snow covered street view of Loussac Place

ANCHORAGE - Carol Gore, chief executive officer of the Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Anchorage, has a problem. It starts with supply and ends with demand.

"When you open up eight units for lease," she told KTVA-TV, "and you take in 250 applications for those units, that's confirmation that we have a production issue here and we have an affordability issue here."

The problem - the gap between the demand for affordable housing and the supply of it - isn't just Gore's. The gap, after all, is only getting wider.

Unlike some American cities, Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, continues to grow. And will for the foreseeable future. From 2000 to 2010, the Census reports, its population increase more than 12 percent, to 293,237. That's good news, of course, for its residents, median age 33.5, are looking to start a family, put down roots and build a future in a place with the opportunities growth brings.

But look ahead a few years to 2035. A lot of those residents will be in their mid-50's and approaching retirement, looking to down-size, beginning to come with terms with how they'll pay for life's basics - like housing - on incomes almost certain to be smaller once they stop punching the clock 40 hours a week. By 2035, demographers predict, they'll be competing against 63,000 more Anchorage residents, most of whom will also be for affordable housing.
[Photo 2: Loussac Place]
View of Loussac Place

Market resources, as you'd expect, will address some of this growing demand. Resources like the almost 14,500 mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, a part of HUD, since 2002. But the market won't meet all the needs.

So, what's the answer to Anchorage's looming affordable housing shortage? One, says The Anchorage Daily News, may be the recently-completed Loussac Place, located on six-acres that, used to be home to 62 units of low-income public housing owned and operated by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. When the Corporation "decided it would be better to replace the" 45-year old "units than renovate them," it conducted a national competition to find a developer. The winner, it turns out, was just around the corner - Cook Inlet Housing.

The result? Loussac Place, a 120-unit, $32.5 million workforce housing development that replaces "cramped, military-like barracks" housing with, says The Daily News, a new community that "looks more like a small town" with parks and playgrounds, walking trails and computer labs and easy access to the city's People Mover transit system. With funding from Alaska Housing Finance, Cook Inlet, low-income housing tax credits and HUD, it was designed and built, says Gore, as a place where "families grow."

What may be most notable about Loussac Place is its mix of families. Families in its predecessor complex were exclusively low-income. While about two-thirds of families in Loussac Place also will, the balance will be families of all incomes who pay market rate. It's "ideal," says Gore, for those who work in midtown or downtown.

With the grand opening of Loussac Place in early October, 2012, no one would have begrudged Alaska Housing Finance or Cook Inlet or other affordable housing providers a break and a chance to rest on their laurels. No way. Within two weeks, Gore and Cook Inlet announced plans to acquire properties in the city's Spennard neighborhood to produce even more affordable housing. In a big city getting even bigger, after all, more and more families are going to need an affordable place to grow.


Content Archived: February 26, 2014