• 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

  • News

    Czech Republic man dies on Denali after 1,500-foot fall

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 29, 12:02

    A Czech Republic man died Saturday evening while skiing on Denali, according to the National Park Service. Pavel Michut, 45, “fell roughly 1,500 feet from an elevation of 17,000 feet” on the Messner Couloir route, NPS spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said in a statement Sunday. “The event was witnessed by multiple parties at the 14,200-foot camp […]

  • Lifestyle

    As Arctic Ocean gets spicier, hunting may be more dangerous

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on May 29, 11:42

    The Arctic Ocean is getting spicier. A new study published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography suggests that rising temperatures in the far north could result in spicier water, or warmer water whose density is more affected by temperature than salinity. This could make marine mammal hunting off Alaska’s coast more dangerous. Mary-Louise Timmermans is a […]

  • News

    Following fire, Eagle River residents get home safety tips

    by Eric Ruble on May 28, 18:49

    The recent fire near Eagle River has reminded some Alaskans of the need to be fire ready, or “FireWise.” The Anchorage Fire Department’s FireWise program is helping Alaskans keep their properties safe this summer, when fire conditions are considered dangerous. Watching the plumes of smoke billow from his Eagle River balcony Friday afternoon, Rick Roberts […]

  • Sports

    High school runner brings spotlight to Alaska transgender policy

    by Jake Edmonds on May 28, 13:05

    Haines runner Nattaphon Wangyot qualified for the girls 1-2-3A 100-meter and 200-meter finals Friday afternoon at the high school state track and field meet, but unlike her competitors, she was born with male anatomy. Transgender equality has become a hot topic of discussion around the country, and Alaska is no exception. The Alaska Schools Activities […]

  • News

    Pasco frozen food company lays off 61 in wake of recall

    by Associated Press on May 28, 12:32

    A Pasco frozen food company has laid off 61 more workers amid an ongoing shutdown in connection to listeria contamination in some of its products. The Tri-City Herald reports that CRF Frozen Foods announced the additional layoffs Friday, raising the total number of workers laid off to more than 300. CRF Frozen Foods has recalled […]

  • Lifestyle

    Earliest snowmelt on record in Barrow

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on May 28, 12:21

    Snow in the northernmost town in the nation is melting earlier than ever before on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Observatory in Barrow reported a snowmelt staring on May 13. That’s 10 days earlier than the previous record set in 2002. NOAA has been recording snowmelt from its Barrow Observatory for over 70 years. The […]

  • News

    Health experts: Move Rio Olympics due to Zika outbreak

    by Associated Press on May 28, 10:25

    Health experts on Friday urged the World Health Organization to consider whether the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak. The 150 experts — including former White House science adviser Dr. Philip Rubin — issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency, calling for the games to be delayed or […]

  • News

    Crews work to mop up Hiland Fire near Eagle River

    by KTVA 11 News on May 27, 22:18

      Last updated at 3:11 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 EAGLE RIVER — A large number of emergency responders spent Friday evening battling a small wildfire near Hiland Road in Eagle River. By Saturday afternoon, the fire was 100-percent contained and crews were conducting mop-up operations, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF). In […]