INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Friendlier building permit regime gives Mat-Su an edge over Anchorage
According to the latest census data for 2015, Anchorage has lost 1,458 residents when compared to 2014 while her popular neighbor to the north, the Mat-Su Borough gained 1,801.
How many of Anchorage’s lost neighbors became residents of the Mat-Su is hard to calculate, but anyone who’s driven the Glenn Highway in the past 12 months can attest to the growing long line of traffic back and forth.
According to the same census information, the Mat-Su has now become the second most-populated region in the state, surpassing the Interior to which like the Municipality of Anchorage, or MOA, has also continued to lose population.
What makes the Mat-Su so attractive is the almost over-abundance of developable land resulting in more affordable home prices. But, it is not just the small ranch home that beats Anchorage home prices between $50,000 and $100,000, but also the more attractive and custom homes as well.
With large lots, many with views and some with lake frontages, the Mat-Su has also become a fast-growing luxury home market. However, just like there is plenty of land to develop, there are also plenty of homes for sale.
As of last week, Anchorage had 638 homes for sale, an increasing number, but not unusual for this time of year. That number reflects one home for sale per 468 residents. In the Mat-Su, with a population estimated at just over 100,000, there is one home for sale per 168 residents or more than 2.78 times the choices if you’re looking for a home to purchase.
Needless to say, lack of home-building regulations in the Mat-Su Borough makes building faster and more affordable. Only the city of Palmer actually has building permits. The rest of the borough is wide open with the only regulation coming from private inspectors in order for a home buyer to obtain long-term financing.
Buyers should be aware that all homes are not created equally, and a popular home plan built in the Mat-Su versus the MOA may, for example, have fewer electrical outlets than the same home in Anchorage. However, fewer restrictions are also available in Girdwood, Eagle River, and Bear Valley.
The flight to the Valley is understandable but worrisome from a residential real estate perspective.
While the Mat-Su may be too loose without permits and adequate oversight, Anchorage is going in a different direction with new Title 21 regulations requiring even a strict percentage of windows on the front elevation of all new homes, and the continual upgrading of the Design Criteria Manual, that little-known document governing the requirements for the construction of roads, without any public review process.
Somewhere in between the development philosophy of the Mat-Su Borough and the MOA should be a reasonable compromise so that both communities can fulfill the housing needs of its residents.