It's a proposal that some say would change the character of Anchorage neighborhoods, but whether that's for better or worse might depend on who you ask.

The Berkowitz administration is proposing an ordinance that would make it easier for residents to build a type of rental unit on their property called Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs.

ADUs are already allowed in Anchorage. Often, they're an apartment over a garage, sometimes called a "mother in law apartment" but they can also be separate structures, a smaller home that's built behind the original one. The ordinance would allow for larger structures to be built on smaller lots zoned for single-family homes.

Anchorage's Economic and Community Development Director Chris Schutte said the ordinance might help with the city's housing crunch but also provided more choices about how and where people want to live.

"So, even if the population stays the exact same as it is today, the fact of the matter is we don't have a lot of housing choices in our community and this is one way to provide that," said Schutte.

The proposed ordinance would reduce the lot size necessary to build an ADU, and increase the size of the structure up to 900 square feet and two stories tall. At least two community councils have expressed concern: Rogers Park and Turnagain.

Turnagain Community Council President Cathy Gleason said she understands the city needs more housing but not necessarily the kind the ordinance would allow.

"To take the existing code and make such dramatic changes to it without taking into account what would look good in one area, what wouldn't work in that area is a concern," said Gleason.

More on-street parking is one of the concerns, or permitting ADUs so large they block a view or cast shadows on a neighbor's lawn. Gleason said allowing too many ADUs could change the character of single-family neighborhoods. But Schutte said some of those changes could turn out to be good.

"I think that's a valid concern," said Schutte. "But I also feel that you have countless communities across the country that have been very liberal in their rules when it comes to accessory dwelling units and, if anything, it has completely enhanced the neighborhoods in which they go."

Some neighborhoods are hoping for a compromise. The Anchorage Assembly has scheduled public testimony on the ordinance for June 12, giving assembly members time to file amendments if they chose.

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