Residential building permits continue lagging in Anchorage
Despite all the organizations, committees and public discourse dedicated to Anchorage’s need for more and affordable housing, the Municipality of Anchorage continues to have historically low residential building permits.
For the first half of 2016, Anchorage had only 106 single family permits, a 40 percent decline from 2015 and the lowest permit numbers in more than six years. Duplexes fared little better with 30 units (a 30 percent decline) and multi-family had the lowest number of units permitted in the last five years with 54 permits, compared to 220 year-to-date in 2015.
To call this a housing crisis is an understatement despite our loss of 1,200 residents to the Lower 48 or the Valley. Anchorage remains in dire need of housing.
Talk is not really cheap when organizations, whether private, public or non-profit, dedicate time and human resources in an attempt to solving the problem but the time has come to produce solutions and actions.
Certainly, the implementation of the new Title 21 slowed permits for the first half of this year but the six-year average for single family home permits is still only 148 — a dismal showing for a population hovering on 300,000.
Title 21 has not only slowed permit activity as builders grappled to meet new standards but it also made new homes more expensive with the average per square foot cost now more than $200, including lot and garage areas.
With mortgage interest at rock bottom rates, and the Feds hinting at a rate increase after the presidential election, Anchorage has missed an important opportunity to meet its housing needs for its citizens.
There are solutions to our housing crisis but they require action by elected officials. Number one is a small lot single family ordinance which will lower the cost of the home. Right now, smaller building sites are only allowed in the cluster housing ordinance which requires usable open space or single family condos on one tract which delays and adds to the cost of financing with condo dues.
The tiny house vs. the McMansion is getting a lot of publicity from New York City to Wasilla. Anchorage’s old Nunaka Valley is an excellent example of what an 800-square foot home with two beds and a bath on a small lot could be but those homes are decades old.
An Anchorage ordinance that allowed for the sharing in the cost of private road development by the MOA was abandoned during the real estate recession of the late 1980s. It’s still on the books and with the will of the assembly and the mayor’s office, this road sharing cost could alleviate some of the prohibitive cost to private developers and open up new areas for homes.
This ordinance would be the equivalent of the “improvement of public space” reimbursement of $500,000 recently announced to a commercial developer for a warehouse/storage facility for beverages.