Boost in affordable housing planned for Mountain View, Russian Jack

Devin Kelly

Alaska's public housing authority has partnered with local developers to build nearly 90 new affordable housing units in the Mountain View and Russian Jack neighborhoods in the coming months, projects aimed at housing seniors and families while sparking neighborhood revitalization.

The larger of the two developments, in Mountain View, will contain 70 units in 14 buildings. Construction on the $23.9 million project is set to start in the spring, on a plot of land near the intersection of Mountain View Drive and Taylor Street.

The plans include a Rasmuson Foundation-funded community resource center, slated to provide services such as after-school providers and job training to tenants as well as the greater Mountain View community, said Mike Courtney, director of operations for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. public housing division.

Several miles away, on San Roberto Avenue in Russian Jack, developers are planning a $5.4 million three-building project with 18 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Officials expect to break ground early this summer.

The two projects mark the largest development undertaken by the state financing authority in more than 15 years. Since completing a development in Juneau in the late 1990s, the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. has conducted numerous renovation projects around the state, but did not embark on a major multifamily development, said Mark Romick, planning director at AHFC.

A need for public housing in Anchorage, coupled with a variety of nontraditional resources amid a declining pool of federal funds, pushed the timing of the projects. Several years ago, a federal program known as "Move to Work" gave AHFC the authority to create a subsidiary and hire a development team.

For the new development, AHFC brought on local private developers Trapline LLC and V2 LLC, as well as the nonprofit Cook Inlet Housing Authority. All three organizations bring experience to the table, and strategies for coming up with creative financing, Courtney said.

Cook Inlet Housing Authority will operate the properties for at least the first several years, said spokeswoman Sezy Gerow-Hanson.

"We're excited to be doing this development with (AHFC). It's a different model for us," Gerow-Hanson said, adding that the housing agency plans to work with other organizations to provide services to residents. Catholic Social Services, for example, will provide case management services to residents at the Russian Jack development, Courtney said.

Rents will range from $947 for a one-bedroom unit to $1,203 for a two-bedroom, Romick said.

Funding will come through a combination of state and federal dollars, federal tax credits, tax-exempt bond financing and private foundation funding.

Both developments will, for the first time, incorporate senior housing and family housing into the same design plan. The developers are envisioning the multigenerational feel of a neighborhood community, with senior housing mixed in with townhouse-style family homes, Courtney said.

"There's a benefit for the elders, the seniors, to feel the vitality of the families," Gerow-Hanson said. "It's also a benefit for the families to have the knowledge base of the seniors."

Seniors represent one of the fastest-growing demographics in Alaska, Courtney said, and the wait list for public housing numbers around 1,500.

For the Mountain View community, Jewel Jones, the director of the Anchorage Community Land Trust, said Tuesday that the planned expansion in public housing marks a pivotal step-up point for low-income families hoping to climb the economic ladder.

"The need for affordable housing reaches every part and every sector of the community," Jones said. "To have Mountain View at the center of more housing is the right thing to do."

Authorities also see Russian Jack as an area in need of a renewed focus on redevelopment, Romick said. He said the developers hope to spur an interest in fixing up deteriorating private properties located along San Roberto Avenue.

"A lot of time, it takes the first spark," Romick said.

Both projects, which will also incorporate solar-powered water and electricity systems, are expected to be completed in 2015. A waiting list will open up about two months before the openings, Courtney said.

Reach Devin Kelly at or 257-4314.