• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 1s

Home builders say over-regulation in Anchorage is slowing growth

By Kate McPherson 8:31 AM March 3, 2015
ANCHORAGE –

City planning officials say Anchorage is not on track to meet the housing demand over the coming decades.

“Looking at the building permits issued in 2013 and 2014 they are not meeting the benchmarks,” said Jerry Weaver, director of Community Development with the municipality.

A report prepared for the municipality in 2012 says Anchorage needs 18,000 new housing units by 2030 — that’s more than 900 new units a year. In 2013, 526 new housing units, including single-family, duplex and multi-family, were built, according to city data. Last year, 768 new housing units were built.

“At a four percent vacancy rate we should be seeing a lot of multi-family construction, but we don’t see that,” said Weaver, who adds that something needs to be done to “jump-start the construction of housing” and he and his team in the Planning Division are trying a number of methods to do that — including encouraging higher-density development.

But some builders in Anchorage aren’t feeling the encouragement.

“It’s so expensive to build here in Anchorage, in particular multi-family housing,” said property developer Shaun Debenham. “There hasn’t been anybody building because it just doesn’t pencil out, it doesn’t make sense, you can’t make money doing it.”

Debenham Properties is the first company in a decade to build an apartment complex that isn’t subsidized by the government. Construction crews are still working on the second phase of the project, near Raspberry Road and Northwood Street. Debenham, whose father started the company in the ’60s, says he won’t be building another apartment complex in the near future — he says it’s too expensive to comply with the city’s codes and regulations.

Debenham says the rewrite of the city’s land use code, Title 21, has done nothing to encourage him to build housing.

“The problem is that the new Title 21 regulations limit density and limits height on buildings and therefore it’s going in the opposite direction of where we want to go,” Debenham said.

There’s some land that Debenham owns close by to the new apartments that could’ve been used for more housing, but it will be used for commercial space instead. He’s petitioning the Anchorage Assembly’s Title 21 subcommittee to change some of the regulations to make building housing more attractive.

Andre Spinelli, of Spinell Homes, says his company builds about 80 homes a year. He says it used to be 180, but several factors, including regulations under the new Title 21, limits his business.

“The municipality makes it so tough to get a residential development or building project off the ground that it opens the builder up to a lot of risk,” said Spinelli, adding that the cost of obtaining a residential building permit in the Mat-Su Valley is about $1,500 compared to $10,000 in Anchorage.

Spinelli says the process of getting building approvals from the city is fraught with delays.

“Which then further restricts the supply of new homes, which then allows people selling existing homes on the market to raise their prices because the demand is so high and there is no supply,” Spinelli said.

Weaver acknowledges the high cost of building in Anchorage, which he says is due to the cost of land, materials and labor, as well as high building standards.

“Simply because of our conditions, we are in a high seismic part of the world, probably we have some of the highest seismic standards in our building code,” Weaver said. “We are doing what we can to make sure the regulations aren’t slowing anything down.”

The Planning Division will present a new land use map to Planning and Zoning in the next couple of months. One of the focuses is finding more land where multi-family housing can be built. Weaver says his department must consider the character of established neighborhoods, and that’s why height restrictions are in place.

But he singles out Spenard, the U-Med district, Downtown and Fairview as areas where the city would like to see multi-family housing development.

“We haven’t had any major residential development in the downtown for a very long time, we haven’t focused on how to make that happen,” Weaver said. “That area needs proximity to a grocery facility to make that residential happen and that’s just not there — so in our discussions with the bigger developers we’ve talked about that, I’ve suggested to Safeway Carrs that they look at that.”

He says the grocery chain hasn’t indicated that they are interested in a new store Downtown.

“The Railroad has some plans for residential on some of their properties that abut along Third, Second Ave.; there is a lot of potential,” Weaver said.

Weaver says he’s also putting a group of people together to talk about tax incentives to spur residential development.

Latest Stories

  • Fairbanks woman gets 23 years for husband’s shooting death

    by Associated Press on Apr 30, 13:51

    FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) – A 51-year-old Alaska woman charged with killing her husband who was missing for weeks before police found his body buried under snow on their property in Fairbanks has been sentenced to 23 years in prison. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/2qiyuDj) Monica Dee Forbes was sentenced Friday for the 2015 death […]

  • News

    Anchorage police looking for missing teen

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 30, 13:41

    The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help locating a 13-year-old runaway.  Alexis Stewart left during the night and hasn’t spoken to her family since. APD said there are concerns for her safety. Stewart is described as being 5 feet 3 inches tall, with straight, long blonde hair. Police did not know what […]

  • Politics

    Lawmakers find common ground on $1T plan to keep gov’t open

    by Associated Press on Apr 30, 12:54

    WASHINGTON (AP) – Top Capitol Hill negotiators are reporting progress toward a long-sought agreement on a massive $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund the day-to-day operations of virtually every federal agency through Oct. 1. Aides say lawmakers closely involved in the talks have worked through many sticking points in hopes of making the measure […]

  • Weather

    At least 9 killed as storms roll across the US

    by Associated Press on Apr 30, 11:51

    CANTON, Texas (AP) – The Latest on severe weather in parts of the U.S. (all times local): 3:10 p.m. Authorities say two people have died in flooding in Arkansas, raising the death toll from weekend storms in that state to three. Officials say two children are also missing in Arkansas after a vehicle was swept […]

  • Man charged in Fairbanks shooting that left 1 critically injured

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 30, 10:45

    A 37-year-old man, who turned himself in to Fairbanks police, was taken into custody Saturday evening, following a shooting that left another man with critical injuries. According to the Fairbanks Police Department, the shooting was reported at 3:57 p.m., Saturday. When police arrived at 612 11th Avenue they found Vernon Smoke, 36, with a gunshot wound […]

  • Lifestyle

    The ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ folds its tent for good

    by CBS News on Apr 30, 10:12

    Faced with declining ticket sales, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — after juggling the numbers as best it could — is staging its final performance two weeks from today … which means that for anyone wanting to take one last look, there’s no time to lose. Lee Cowan reports: “Ladies and Gentleman, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Facebook acknowledges election manipulation

    by CBS News on Apr 29, 18:07

    Without saying the words “Russia,” “Hillary Clinton,” or “Donald Trump,” Facebook acknowledged Thursday for the first time what others have been saying for months. In a paper released by its security division, the company said “malicious actors” used the platform during the 2016 presidential election as part of a campaign “with the intent of harming […]

  • There’s a celestial trick to the latest postal stamp

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Apr 29, 18:04

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The U.S. Postal Service is going all out for this summer’s total solar eclipse, with a first-of-its kind stamp. Just touch the stamp with your finger, and the heat transforms the image of the blacked-out sun into the moon. Remove your finger, and the eclipse reappears. The trick is using temperature-sensitive […]