INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Alaska housing agency should build on mission
Congratulations to the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. for being one of the best-managed public housing agencies in the nation. Established 45 years ago to provide “Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing,” its mission is perhaps more important today than ever before.
During the recession of the 1980s, the state legislature grabbed a portion of its profits to help balance its budget and since that time AHFC has made a cumulative contribution close to $2 billion, according to its 2016 annual report. Their mortgage portfolio contains 14,939 loans with a delinquency rate of only 3.7 percent and a foreclosure rate of 0.29 percent — well below the national average.
As of June 30, 2016, AHFC had 1,612 public housing units available with locations as diverse as Nome, Seward, Juneau, Cordova, Anchorage and Mat-Su. However, the combined wait list from all locations was 3,445, demonstrating what public officials across the state have all finally recognized as Alaska’s housing crisis.
The voucher assistance program, where low-income Alaskans lease privately owned rental units from participating landlords, has a wait list of 3,969. As a former landlord who participated in the program, I can attest to its value of social integration as opposed to the “projects” whether new or old, where the low income people live. This is one program where I hope AHFC can do more in the future.
There are 73,000 veterans living in Alaska. AHFC supports homeless veterans with 271 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, an increase of 24 in fiscal year 2016. However, the need is much greater with 168 unsheltered veterans according to a Point-in Time count of the homeless population. This is another area where AHFC can and should do more to support its Alaskan veterans.
In 2014, AHFC was granted expanded authority by the State Legislature to fund mixed-use facilities. The funding of commercial space for a coffee shop, restaurant, yoga studio, book store, etc., appears to be in direct opposition to its mission of “Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing.”
Yes, a mixed-use building provides subsidized rental housing and, yes, low income families will live there because there is a housing crisis in our state and these units will be available.
Over the past five years, planners and developers, at least in Anchorage, have developed a love affair with mixed-use. Perhaps because the projects are larger and more profitable?
But, there are other programs and opportunities for housing that is more in keeping with AHFC’s mission and all Alaskans desire for a better quality of life. I’m not sure that’s living above a coffee shop.