On Nov. 3, dozens of community partners and industry leaders joined hundreds of curious Alaskans at the Anchorage Museum for a unique First Friday event – “Anchorage’s Housing Future.”
The Live. Work. Play. Housing Area of Focus has been working for the past several years to increase visibility of the housing crunch in Anchorage, especially the so-called “missing middle” of smaller, mid-range homes that appeal to young professionals and seniors. The housing group hosted the First Friday event to discuss several of the new housing concepts that are in the works or part of a larger discussion about future residential development in Anchorage. These new housing concepts include microapartments (studio apartments less than 300 square feet), co-housing, higher-density housing in the urban core and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which are a specific focus of the LWP group, as the Anchorage Planning & Zoning Commission will be considering a revision to the municipal ordinance regulating the construction of what are often better known as “mother-in-law” apartments. The LWP Housing Area of Focus has been vital in bringing together advocates and delivering policy changes that will allow for new and innovative types of housing to be built in Anchorage.
At the November First Friday event, over 1,400 Anchorage residents came to learn more about these new types of housing for the city. Attendees were particularly engaged in the 3D microapartment modeling exercise, brought to life by artist Sheila Wyne, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, and many others in the local arts and housing community, which first debuted this summer at the Church of Love in Spenard. The full-scale 300-square-foot model apartment, complete with model furniture, was available for participants to design their own small studio apartment and get a first-hand experience for what living in that kind of space would be like.
Part of an ongoing conversation about affordable living in urban spaces, the exhibit was a collaborative effort by multiple community partners. Other elements of the First Friday were made possible through the efforts and support of organizations like Weidner Apartment Homes, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, Irwin Development, The Petersen Group, Anchorage Community Development Authority, Agnew::Beck Consulting, CIHA and many others. Developers such as Irwin Development and The Petersen Group shared renderings and designs of new housing projects that will be developed over the next 24 months, in downtown Anchorage and the U-Med District. Together, these partners have helped bring needed attention to the obstacles facing new, private, small-scale housing developments in Anchorage.
The response from the Anchorage community shows how the issue of needed additional housing resonates with our friends and neighbors across the city. Addressing it will take a village.
The proposed revisions to the municipal ADU ordinance would allow subsidiary units (mother-in-law apartments) to be a maximum of 900 square feet, up from 700 square feet in the current ordinance. It would also allow for detached units on the same property as the primary residence, so long as the accessory unit matches the design standards of the original residence and the neighborhood. Increasing the number of ADUs in Anchorage would provide needed housing options for those young professionals, small families and seniors looking for a residential unit that is small and affordable but maintains a neighborhood feel, or allows them to live close to family. The Planning and Zoning Commission will be taking testimony on this proposed ordinance on Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m.
To sponsors, volunteers, community partners and everyone else helping to bring awareness to this critical community issue: thank you.