Anchorage is Alaska's largest city, currently accounting for slightly more than 40 percent of the State's population, and has the largest land area of any U.S. city with a population over 200,000. Like many other areas of Alaska, resource industries such as fishing and fish processing, mining, timber and, in particular, oil development feed uneven but dramatic periods of prosperity in Anchorage.
Anchorage's 1995 Consolidated Plan constitutes a strategic vision for housing and community development. The One-Year Action Plan lays out the proposed uses of Community Development Block Grant program funds and the HOME Investment Partnerships program funds of $3,374,000 plus unused prior year and program income funds, and another $227,886 in repayment funds from the Municipal Heritage Land Bank.
Most of these funds will be spent on improving housing conditions and opportunities as well as supporting non-profit service providers to better deliver services to the community in need.
Application for Emergency Shelter Grant program funds of $83,000 was made separately for this year only, however, homeless needs are addressed in the Consolidated Plan.
The Plan was developed with active citizen participation, including input
from the Homeless Strategy Focus Groups, Community Councils, and non-profit
service providers. A public hearing on Housing and Community Development Needs
was conducted and the complete Consolidated Plan was published for public review
on April 12, 1995. A brief summary of the Plan was printed in the Anchorage
Daily News and copies were available for public review at public library
branches and from the Housing and CDBG Division of the Municipal Community
Planning and Development Department. Public hearings on the draft plan
were held on April 25, May 1, May 8, and May 9, 1995. The plan was approved and
adopted by the Municipal Assembly and the Mayor on May 9, 1995.
Anchorage has always had a boom and bust economy. In the late 1980's, a steep decline in oil prices led to increased unemployment and crash in the local real estate market. Between 1986 and 1988, nearly 30,000 people left Anchorage. Recent growth, back up to 250,000 residents, was stimulated in part by spending associated with Exxon- Valdez oil spill clean-up efforts after the 1989 the oil spill settlement. Retail construction also helped fuel the economy in Anchorage since 1990. However, new positions associated with retail trade typically pay a relatively low hourly wage, are often temporary or part-time, and may offer limited benefits to employees.
Despite changes in the local economy, the median household income in
Anchorage remains high, as reflected by the 1990 Census figure of $43,946, 46
percent higher than the national median of $30,056. While the per capita income
in Anchorage remains above the national level, the disparity is narrowing from
60% higher than the nation as a whole in 1982 to only 28% higher in 1991. As
the employment base in Anchorage shifts to lower paying wage and salary
positions, local per capita income may more closely approximate national
averages. (See map 1 for general view of Anchorage)
In 1990, almost 20 percent of all households had incomes below 50 percent of area median income. These households tended to be concentrated in specific neighborhoods in the city and reflect areas of higher ethnic/racial concentrations (see maps 2-6 for minority concentrations and unemployment). Census tracts showing some racial/ethnic concentration are primarily in Northeast and Northwest Anchorage and in parts of Turnagain and Spenard.
There is a shortage of both rental and owner housing for households earning less than 50 percent of the median income. Almost 80 percent of these households are renters. Although lack of rental housing is a problem, it should be noted that there is not necessarily an overall shortage of units, but more a shortage of affordable rental units. There is also a shortage of available, affordable homes for those wishing to move to homeownership. Rent assistance and homeownership assistance programs are essential in dealing with these needs.
Preservation of existing housing has been identified as one of the most effective ways to ensure a continued supply of affordable units, especially in older neighborhoods with diverse housing types, such as those in and near downtown Anchorage. In addition, together with an inventory of buildable lots, it can be used to promote infilling and help increase the supply of affordable housing. There is a need for programs which allow substantial rehabilitation, and demolition combined with new construction.
The 1990 Census counted 94,153 housing units in Anchorage with a vacancy rate in 1994 of only 4.4%. Overall, the general decline of vacancy rates over the last several years reflects both a recovery of the Anchorage economy and also the removal of about 1,000 substandard multi-family units from the rental inventory between 1988 and 1990. Still, the number of single family homes is significantly less than that of the United States as a whole whereas the number of multi-family units is significantly higher. This is due mainly to the historically transient nature of Anchorage's population. However, this is changing and housing needs will most likely change as well.
From the early 1970's until 1985, Anchorage experienced a residential building boom, followed by a real estate crash when construction came to a near standstill. While single family housing construction has recovered, in general, government subsidies or other incentives are still required in order to make new construction of affordable multi-family housing feasible. Further, the average price of$147,742 for a single family house precludes many Anchorage families from achieving homeownership.
The likelihood of a household experiencing problems of any kind appears more affected by income than race or ethnicity. However, minorities are less likely to be homeowners. Further, many of the units affordable to lower income households have substantial rehabilitation needs.
In 1990, approximately 33,284 low- to moderate-income households had inadequate housing units in terms of cost, size or habitability. Housing cost burden is the most significant issue facing lower income residents and is particularly serious for the elderly and for smaller families (particularly single-parent) simply because financial resources are scarce and many are dependent on a single source of income.
Other groups needing assistance include first time homebuyers who cannot meet downpayment requirements and need credit counseling and home maintenance training, those with physical and mental disabilities, those suffering from mental illness or addiction problems, and those that are elderly or are otherwise unable to care for themselves. Due to the complexity of individual circumstances, many different housing types are needed including Single Room Occupancy apartments, assisted living facilities, affordable multi- family and single-family homes.
Currently, in several areas of Anchorage, mobile homes constitute a large portion of the low-cost housing stock. Many of these units are older and badly in need of repair. Some affordable multi-family housing is being built or is planned for the near future, however, it will only meet some of the housing needs.
In Fiscal Year 1994, it is estimated that approximately 930 people were homeless in Anchorage. However, this number only reflects those who sought shelter through the emergency shelter or transitional housing system and does include the unsheltered, which is considered to be quite a substantial population. With winter temperatures often dipping below 0·, housing the homeless is critical to their survival. As of March 1995, the city's homeless shelters and transitional housing had a capacity of 1,087. Based on a count conducted in 1994, over 70 % of the homeless are single adults, 20% are members of homeless families and 9% are unaccompanied youth. The vast majority of homeless single adults are male, and while many are white, a large proportion of the homeless are Native Alaskan.
Anchorage is fortunate to have the basic elements of a continuum of housing in place. The shelter system is fairly complete, however, outreach and service coordination need to be strengthened to provide comprehensive case management of homeless families and individuals. A critical need also exists for permanent supportive housing for homeless and non-homeless with special needs.
Among the assisted housing available are 591 project-based Section 8 units, 686 units in low rent public housing projects, housing subsidies for 1,580 families and homeless individuals through certificates and vouchers, and 650 units in assisted-housing developments that either had federally-insured mortgages or other financing accompanied by affordability requirements and set-asides. However, there are over 2,900 families on the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation waiting list for assisted housing as well as another 190 families on the Cook Inlet Housing Authority waiting list.
Programs which move families toward self-sufficiency are needed and those underway need to be continued. Elderly residents of public housing need assistance with access to transportation and daily activities, particularly in the winter when icy conditions keep many elderly housebound.
The housing affordability gap is the largest barrier to adequate housing for low-income residents in Anchorage. As real personal income decreases and rents increases, there will be more incidence of overcrowding and families paying more than 50 percent of their income toward rent thus keeping people in poverty. The high costs of land, construction, fees and permits also hinder the construction of affordable rental and ownership units. Finally, neighborhood opposition to affordable housing is a continual problem. Regulatory barriers, financial barriers and social barriers (such as the NIMBY Syndrome) all must be overcome in order for housing to be accessible to those at all income levels.
Among the actions proposed to address fair housing issues is education. Educating renter and buyers to their rights is a goal of the Housing and CDBG Division as well as promoting and supporting activities which further fair housing. The Division will complete its Fair Housing Study by April 1996.
According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Epidemiology, no instances of lead poisoning tied to housing have yet been found in Anchorage. Further, conditions which may increase lead exposure among children in other areas of the United States do not exist with high frequency in Alaska.
Non-housing community development needs were found to be different for each neighborhood, however survey results indicate some of the highest needs are for recreation facilities and parks, sidewalk and lighting improvements, improved handicapped access, youth transportation and activities, substance abuse and employment services, health services, economic development, code enforcement, and planning. Projects which address these needs should include consideration of Anchorage's long , cold, dark winters and address "Northern" or "Winter City" design principles and planning philosophies.
The Housing and CDBG Division is working with community groups, non-profit
service providers, and the for-profit development community to ensure that
priorities outlined in the Consolidated Plan are being addressed. Coordination
within and between the different governmental agencies has improved and is
extremely important. The Housing and CDBG Division is interfacing with the
Health and Human Services Department through the Division and Department
managers, the Healthy Communities Project, and monitoring of Public Service
Elimination of conditions that are detrimental to health, safety and public welfare, conservation and expansion of housing stock, expansion and improvement of the quantity and quality of community services, better utilization of land and other natural resources, reduction of the isolation of income groups within the community and geographical area, and alleviation of physical and economic distress are all objectives for creating a more liveable city. The Housing and CDBG Division is focusing on six specific neighborhoods for revitalization efforts.
Housing issues in Anchorage are primarily related to low-incomes, poorly constructed or aging housing stock, and low homeownership opportunities due to high costs of construction and rehabilitation in an Arctic environment. Housing objectives focus on increasing or rehabilitating the supply of affordable housing, creating or maintaining existing supportive housing environments, and increasing homeownership opportunities. Community development objectives are to facilitate partnerships to leverage housing and community development funds, revitalize both residential and commercial areas on a neighborhood level, and support crime awareness and prevention by providing alternatives in recreation, employment and housing.
Public Housing Priorities: The Plan lays out the goals for improving and maintaining the inventory of public housing, and providing opportunities for residents of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and Cook Inlet Housing Authority housing.
Homeless Priorities: Recognizing the need for a continuum of care, priorities include continuing support for existing shelters, increasing the supply of transitional and permanent supportive housing for homeless and non-homeless with special needs, and ensuring integration of supportive services in all homeless housing and for those at risk of homelessness.
Affordable Housing Priorities: Priorities include improving opportunities for homeownership, increasing the supply of affordable housing through acquisition, construction, and/or rehabilitation, and reducing housing cost burden through rent assistance.
Public Service Priorities: Priorities include crime prevention and awareness activities, and activities that address drug and alcohol abuse, youth issues, domestic violence, seniors and the handicapped.
Community Development Priorities: Support will be given to activities which address public facility improvements (parks, youth centers, and recreation), infrastructure improvements (streets, sidewalks, and lighting), clearance and demolition, and removal of architectural barriers to facilitate access by disabled or elderly.
Economic Opportunity Priorities: Priorities include providing technical assistance for small business development, job creation, and rehabilitation and beautification of commercial areas in certain low-income neighborhoods.
Anchorage's anti-poverty strategy includes facilitating a higher degree of coordination among non-profit organizations to increase efficiency and better utilize increasingly smaller resources, and supporting applications that provide funds to non-profit, for-profit and government entities which operate programs that address the needs of poverty-stricken residents. Many commonly used programs that address community needs are rental assistance, housing rehabilitation, family self-sufficiency programs, JTPA, Shelter Plus Care, and multi-supportive housing programs.
The Municipality faces an enormous challenge in linking and leveraging the resources necessary to implement its plan. The Consolidated Plan contains an inventory of federal, State, and local programs available to carry out the plan. Primary federal resources include CDBG, HOME, Section 8, public housing, ESG, Shelter Plus Care, and the Supportive Housing Program.
State resources include Alaska Housing Finance Corporation programs for both home ownership and multi-family development (including Low-Income Tax Credits, the Multi- Family/Special Needs Loan Program, and the Senior Housing Program), Cook Inlet Housing Authority which provides programs for Native Alaskans, and the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities which offers housing assistance and resources to severely mentally ill residents through local non-profit organizations.
At the local level, the Housing and CDBG Division of the Municipality offers several housing rehabilitation programs for home owners and the Department of Health and Human Services administers the Weatherization Program, providing energy efficiency improvements to low-income residents. Private programs include a wide range of non- profit housing and social service initiatives and local lending institutions' affordable home ownership programs.
The Housing and CDBG Division is responsible for coordination of Consolidated Plan activities along with the Department of Health and Human Services, which has historically administered the CDBG Public Service funds and ESG. There are many different organizations involved in activities related to the Plan. Communication and coordination takes place through a variety of committees, task forces, commissions, community meetings and workshops, and the Community Council system.
In general, there is a good system of communication between government and
non-profit entities. However, several gaps have been identified in both
communication and service delivery. Gaps include lack of participation by the
business community and for-profit developers in revitalization efforts, less
cooperation than possible between local government, social service providers and
low-income clients, and lack of general citizen participation in neighborhood
planning processes. These issues are currently being addressed and improvements
can be documented.
The Municipality of Anchorage One-Year Action Plan outlines the proposed use of approximately $3.6 million in CDBG and HOME funds, in addition to program income. These funds will be spent mainly on building and public facility improvements, support of social services, and housing activities.
Many of the CDBG Capital projects are located in targeted low-income neighborhoods such as North Mountain View, Fairview, Downtown, and Spenard. Projects outside of these areas serve low-income clients from the community at large, many of whom live in the aforementioned neighborhoods. HOME funds will be made available for projects located anywhere in the Municipality, but with encouragement to locate affordable housing outside of already low-income areas to decrease concentration of low-income people.
The Housing and CDBG Division and Department of Health and Human Services are the lead agencies in administering the CDBG, ESG and HOME grant funds.
The Housing and CDBG Division expects to support the following number of households to be assisted:
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts low-moderate income areas and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts low-moderate income areas and unemployment levels.
MAP 5 depicts low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects; in addition, a table provides information about the projects.
MAP 6 depicts low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded project(s) from a street level vantage point.
Municipality of Anchorage
632 West 6th Street
Anchorage, AK 99519
PH: (907) 343-4309