U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Community Planning and Development

Consolidated Plan Contact


Alaska, the nation's 49th state, encompasses an area one-fifth the size of the continental United States, with a population of 606,276, ranking 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly one-half of all Alaskans live in the Municipality of Anchorage, which prepares a separate Consolidated Plan (see). The economy centers around tourism and resource-based industries including oil and gas, timber, and fisheries. The rigors of life in an arctic environment present special challenges to the state in addressing its housing and community development needs. The State of Alaska's plan focuses on the needs of areas and people not covered by the Anchorage plan.

Action Plan

Of the nearly $180 million expected to be available to non-metro Alaska in fiscal year 1996, the State of Alaska anticipates receiving grants of $3 million for HOME and $3.3 million for CDBG. HOME funds are targeted primarily to development of rental housing, rehabilitation of owner-occupied housing, while CDBG funds focus on community facilities and economic development activities. All State HOME and CDBG funds are reserved for use in communities other than the Municipality of Anchorage, which receives separate allocations of HOME, CDBG and Emergency Shelter Grant funds.

Substantial non-federal funds are invested by the State in first-time homebuyer and rural lending programs, in addition to multi-family, special needs and congregate housing. The source of these funds is corporate earnings and bond proceeds of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

Citizen Participation

Community workshops were held in the spring of 1995 in Fairbanks, Glennallen, Wasilla, Seward, Juneau, Sitka, Bethel and Dillingham. These interactive sessions, publicized through local print and broadcast media, utilized a group problem-solving approach to identifying community needs and resources, framing alternative State responses, and highlighting opportunities for public/private collaboration. In addition to these workshops, two public hearings were held via teleconference. The first, held on March 28, focused on gaining the views and opinions of citizens prior to development of the draft plan; the second hearing, held in conjunction with a May 4 meeting of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Board of Directors, received public comment on the draft plan prior to its ratification by the AHFC board and submittal to HUD. The draft plan was available to the public for a 30-day public comment period from April 20 to May 22, and could be obtained free of charge by mail, or from AHFC and DCRA file offices throughout the state. Citizens statewide were able to participate in teleconferenced hearings without cost, at sites within their local communities. In addition to the workshops and hearings, comments were received by fax, mail and e-mail via Internet.

Members of the public joined state agency representatives, service providers, local governments, and private industry in three focus groups. These groups were formed to spend an extended time in structured examination of Fair Housing, Homelessness, and Anti- Poverty Strategies.


Alaska became the nation's 49th state on January 3, 1959. Two basic forms of local government exist in the state: the city and the borough. Boroughs are similar to counties in many other states, but may not possess all of the same responsibilities and powers, by local option. Alaska is unique among the 50 states in that most of its land area has not been organized into political subdivisions. Thirteen organized boroughs cover only about one-third of the state; for many rural Alaskans, the closest unit of local government is the State of Alaska.

The name "Alaska" means the Greatland in one of its many Native languages. Alaska's land mass stretches 2400 miles east to west, and 1420 miles north to south. It is larger than Texas the next three largest states combined. The state's largest city, Anchorage, is located approximately 2500 air miles north of Seattle.

Although the state's two largest cities and ice-free ports are connected by road and rail, most of the state is not connected by surface transportation. Air travel is a principal mode of transportation in the Greatland, allowing rural communities to receive mail and commodities on a scheduled basis, and enabling citizens to reach more populated centers where commercial and medical facilities are more available. Southeast Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Chain also receive scheduled ferry service through the Alaska Marine Highway. The cost of housing in Alaska is directly affected by transportation costs; personal mobility is also limited by access to transportation.

Alaska has one of the nation's highest concentrations of native Americans. Statewide, American Indians/Alaska Natives (Natives) constitute 16% of the state's population, and 60% of its total minority population. The next largest minority groups are Asian/Pacific Islanders and African-Americans, each with 4% of the state's population. Despite an overall decline in the total Native population since 1950, in many areas of Alaska, Natives remain the dominant culture, with in some cases over 90% of the population identifying as Native. Preservation of indigenous Native culture, while improving living conditions in the state's rural and remote communities is one of many challenges discussed in Alaska's plan.

Alaskans enjoyed a median family income of $51,300 in 1995. Families living in the Anchorage area posted a median income of $55,600, while their non-metropolitan counterparts were relatively less well-off, with a median family income of only $48,500. By comparison, the 1995 national median family income was $40,200. These higher incomes are substantially offset by Alaska's higher costs, driven by distance, transportation costs, and fuel costs.

Household incomes are not equally distributed around the state, but range widely. While the state has 14 census areas in the nation's 25% per capita income, the state also has three areas in the bottom 25%, among the nation's poorest areas. The state's lowest income areas tend to also be those areas with the highest percentage of Native population. This is in part due to the observance of a subsistence culture and lifestyle which does not rely on a cash economy; however, subsistence does not offset the disparity in living conditions experienced by Alaska's poorest citizens and those of its more affluent residents. Not all Native areas are characterized by low incomes. Those areas which have had cash infusions through resource development, such as the North Slope and Bristol Bay, exhibit relatively high household incomes.

Overall, household incomes have begun to decline, and are expected to continue to do so, as the state shifts from dominance of resource-extraction industries to service industries, such as tourism. Declining household incomes point to a continuing need for housing to suit lower-income households, housing that is in short supply in today's marketplace.



Access to appropriate, safe, affordable housing is a continuing problem for lower-income Alaskans, especially those with special needs. Age of housing in Alaska does not necessarily equate to housing quality. Many units, hastily constructed during the state's oil boom of the 1970s have not performed well in the Arctic environment, and are prematurely reaching the end of their useful economic life, with little potential for rehabilitation. Rural Alaska is plagued by substandard housing conditions, exacerbated by the highest construction costs in the state and absence of cash economies. Basic community facilities and infrastructure, such as piped water and sewer are lacking in many rural communities.

Housing Needs

A continuing, serious deficit exists in access to decent housing for low income, rural and Native Alaskans. The need is greatest in rural areas, where approximately 8,000 new housing units are needed. An additional 5,200 units are needed to meet needs in the state's more urban areas, exclusive of Anchorage. A latent demand for rental housing appears to be surfacing in rural communities, where the predominant types of assistance have historically been homeownership programs.

Housing Market Conditions

Despite phenomenal population and economic growth over the past decade, the nature of Alaska's housing needs has changed little. Persistent overcrowding and severe housing shortages make new development in rural Alaska a critical need. Although significant strides were made during the decade toward improving housing and sanitation in villages, the extent of need is higher than ever due to population growth and continued deterioration of marginal housing units.

Urban areas exhibit their own unique needs, struggling with shortages of buildable land, and with market forces which make development of low cost housing a losing investment proposition. Rapidly escalating rents and scarce vacancies characterize urban rental markets. Demand for rentals remains high, due in part to a high level of transiency in employment, and a perception among many that Alaska is only a temporary home. Vacancy rates of below 1% are not uncommon; average rents are nearly $900 per month in some communities.

Unlike many housing markets in the Lower 48, Alaska does not have a stock of abandoned underutilized housing which, through rehabilitation, can be returned to the marketplace. The state's housing stock is relatively new, however in Alaska age of housing does not necessarily equate to housing quality. Much of the stock, hastily built during the oil boom of the 1970s is now reaching the end of its useful economic life. Many buildings are characterized by poor construction and materials and now deteriorated to a point where their suitability for rehabilitation is questionable.

In addition to high construction and transportation costs, a major constraint to the development of housing is scarcity of buildable land with basic infrastructure in place. Availability is limited by environmental or topographic features, and also by inclusion in national park of forest reserves, military reservations, or native corporation ownership. Local governments often lack financial resources to develop or extent infrastructure to open up new parcels for development.

Affordable Housing Needs

As household incomes continue to decline in response to the shift toward service industries, housing affordability will become increasingly precarious for a growing number of Alaskan families. Typically, the portion of household income dedicated to housing is inversely related to household income, that is, lower income families tend to spend a greater share in their income for housing when compared to higher income households. In Alaska, among the households earning less than 30% of median income, 52% of renters and 29% of owners reported paying more than 50% of income for housing. In the low-income category (51-80% of median income), only 4% of renters and 6% of owners paid more than 50% of income for housing. According to the 1990 Census, 12,767 Alaskan households had incomes in the very, very low income range (0-30% of median), and another 12,413 had very low incomes between 31-50% of median.

Housing shortages throughout the state demand that housing strategies concentrate heavily on new construction, for both rental and owner-occupied housing, and expansion of the range of housing choices available to Alaskans with special needs. It is estimated that the cost of meeting the housing needs of 5675 low-income households over the next five years will exceed $300 million, at 1995 prices.

Homeless Needs

Homelessness becomes a life-threatening proposition at -20·. A January, 1995 survey of homeless facilities and services identified 60 different providers in areas outside Anchorage, and continues to confirm that except in the few major urban communities, few facilities provide overnight shelter to the homeless. Total shelter capacity, for all communities except Anchorage is 850 people, including transitional housing programs, 235 domestic violence beds and traditional shelters, which are available only in Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Juneau and Kodiak.

The same survey identified a total of 395 persons in the sheltered population on January 27, 1995. Of these, nearly 50% exhibited mental illness; another 30% were chronic substance-abusers. Nearly 40% of the homeless counted in the survey effort were families with children, an increase over the year before. A major limitation on the survey data is the fact that it only counts those persons who intersect the support and care system at some point during the survey day. Not counted are unsheltered homeless persons who spent the night in a squatters camp, a car, an unheated abandoned building, in a dumpster, in a church basement, or with a compassionate citizen who took someone in from the cold.

Rural housing shortages also contribute to de facto homelessness. It is not uncommon for entire families, with children, to move from house to house, living temporarily with a chain of friends and relatives because no affordable housing is available to them. The State of Alaska recognizes this status as a form of homelessness, despite the refusal of the federal government to do so.

Public and Assisted Housing Needs

Alaska has over 9,000 units of publicly-assisted housing, including public housing, subsidized below market interest rate rentals, tenant-based rental assistance, and homeownership for Alaska Natives through HUD's mutual help program. Over 4,000 units (including approximately 2,000 units of rental assistance) are managed by the Public Housing Division of AHFC, with about half of those units located in Anchorage. Compared to public housing stock in the Lower 48 states, Alaska's public housing is in acceptable condition, and is relatively new. Still, AHFC estimates approximately $16.2 million in needed improvements to keep the housing stock in safe and energy-efficient condition in 12 communities outside Anchorage.

Vacancy rates in public housing were less than 1% in February 1995; utilization rates for rental assistance were 98% for Section 8 vouchers and 87% for certificates. Increasing rents and decreasing HUD fair market rents, which limit the amount of rent subsidies available to participating households, may jeopardize the use of the Section 8 program in the near future.

Widespread use of rental assistance has proven difficult in rural Alaska for several reasons, including shortage of housing meeting HUD housing standards, and reticence of landlords to forego high seasonal rents to participate in a one-year Section 8 lease. Administrative fees attached to the Section 8 program are not sufficient meet the high cost of bringing the program to rural communities.

Waiting lists for housing assistance are long, with two households on the wait list for every public housing unit, certificate and voucher. It is not uncommon for a household to wait for two years or more for assistance. A total of 522 households on the waiting list as of February 1995 were eligible for federal admission preferences.

Barriers to Affordable Housing

Unlike many states, Alaska does not impose requirement for local comprehensive planning, statewide land use plans, or building codes, not does it levy real property taxes. The state does impose building standards for all housing built with state financing, including loans from AHFC. These standards, which emphasize safety, durability and energy-efficiency, have been attacked by builders as impediments to developing affordable housing; however it has been found that lower operating costs and increased economic life of the property more than offset the initial expense.

A focus group convened as part of the planning process to examine barriers to affordable housing found that access to affordable housing is most often hampered by factors that inhibit choice. Among the challenged to choice identified were lack of low-cost housing, lack of housing for persons with special needs, public stigma associated with certain disabilities, limited flow of investment capital from outside the state, inflexible government programs, and underutilization of existing lending programs. Issues identified that are most pertinent to local governments included impact of local land-use regulations and other codes, lack of awareness of the linkage between affordable housing and economic development, and pervasive "not in my back yard" or NIMBY attitudes at the neighborhood level.

The high cost of building materials, transportation and fuel, coupled with scarcity of buildable land also constitute barriers to affordable housing. The group also cited federal regulations governing use of wetlands and other environmental regulations as restricting housing development, particularly in rural Alaska.

Fair Housing

The Alaska State Commission on Human Rights is the cognizant agency for the receipt and investigation of fair housing complaints. Only a handful of fair housing complaints are received each year; there are presently no outstanding complaints in the Commission's caseload. There are no current court orders, consent decrees, or HUD-imposed sanctions that affect the provision of fair housing remedies in the State of Alaska.

Lead-Based Paint

A recent study by the Division of Epidemiology of the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, reports that incidents of lead-based paint poisoning in Alaska are extremely rare. Targeted lead screening programs of at-risk communities and inquiries to health care professionals over the past two decades have failed to identify any children with blood levels which would benefit from medical or environmental intervention, leading the Division to Epidemiology to question the need for universal blood lead testing in Alaska. The study further demonstrated no value in testing Medicaid-eligible children. Nevertheless, in conformance with the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act, the AHFC Public Housing Division has tested all of its properties constructed prior to 1978, and has conducted appropriate abatement activities.

Community Development Needs

The state's community development deficiencies are enormous when compared to the amount of resources available. Alaska's rural communities often lack the most basic forms of public infrastructure, including piped water and indoor plumbing. Communities off the state road system still have needs for secondary roads for local transportation circulation. Local power generation and bulk fuel storage facilities are essential to remote communities, as are runways, without which many communities would not receive mail, groceries or medicine. A database maintained by the Alaska Department of Community & Regional Affairs estimates the total cost of community development needs in communities other Anchorage to be nearly $1.6 billion.

Because most small communities lack the economic base to finance such improvements, local officials look to state and federal government to provide the funding. Budget crises at both the state and federal levels are expected to have a deleterious effect on the amount of funds available for these critical needs.


The development and maintenance of the Plan is a collaborative effort of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), the Alaska Department of Community & Regional Affairs, the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services, and the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. AHFC is the designated lead agency, and provides the staffing and other support for the plan, including travel, printing, and communications. Other partners in the planning process are the Alaska Municipal League, the Alaska Planning Association, the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness and a wide range of service providers, homeless agencies, and representatives of the private sector including lenders, builders, and energy conservation contractors.


Vision for Change

Eight principles outline the philosophies guiding Alaska's priorities in allocating assistance among various needs:

Housing and Community Development Objectives and Priorities

Households with incomes at or below 50% of median are at greatest rick of homelessness, and generally exhibit the greatest need for affordable housing. Scarcity of funds dictates that resources go first to these needs.

Housing Priorities

Because Alaska exhibits severe shortages for both renters and owners across the state, new construction will continue to be the primary emphasis of the State's housing activities. These activities will be augmented by acquisition and rehabilitation of existing housing, to preserve low-cost housing stock while extending its usefulness to a wider range of occupants, particularly those with special needs such as handicapped accessibility. Rehabilitation and enlargement of existing housing is also an important component, to preserve and expand housing resources, and to improve energy-efficiency and operating costs, particularly in rural or remote communities.

Expanded housing choice will also be promoted through the use of tenant-based rental assistance.

Non-Housing Community Development Priorities

The State will encourage local governments to undertake expansion of community facilities and economic opportunities through the use of CDBG funds.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

The State of Alaska places a high value on maximizing the effectiveness of government programs, and providing customer service to all Alaskans. A Human Resources Investment Council has been formed and charged with responsibility to develop a comprehensive strategy to reform the public welfare system in Alaska, and expand economic opportunity for low-income Alaskans to reduce their long-term reliance on welfare. The Council will provide a vehicle for continued interagency communication and collaboration as the State moves toward this goal.

Housing and Community Development Resources

The State of Alaska has substantial non-federal resources dedicated to expanding the supply of affordable housing. Most of these funds derive from the earnings and bonding activities of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. Historically, private and foundation funding have not figured significantly in the total resource base available to address these issues.

Coordination of Strategic Plan

AHFC and the interagency collaborative which engendered the development of the plan will continue to meet periodically to review progress, evaluate changes in the housing environment and to evaluate priorities and goals for continued relevance. The on-going process to maintain the update the plan will continue to involve outreach to communities, and to the public to ensure that the plan continues to be responsive to emerging needs and community trends.


Description of Key Projects

The following table summarizes Alaska's strategies for investing the housing and community development funds expected to be available during fiscal year 1996:


Because the State operates it programs in a competitive manner, it is not possible at this time to conjecture the exact communities from which projects may emerge.

Lead Agencies

AHFC is the lead agency for public housing programs, including Section 8, and for those projects funded through HOME, and rental housing development funds. DCRA is the lead agency for CDBG and Emergency Shelter Grants; DHSS manages programs specifically targeted at persons with mental illness.

To comment on the State of Alaska's Consolidated Plan, please contact:

Mitzi C. Barker
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation
Phone Number: 907-564-9242

Return to Alaska's Consolidated Plan.