Anchorage hotel conversions are adding hundreds of low-income housing and shelter units at a time of dire need

In a combined effort with local nonprofits, the Municipality of Anchorage has put tens of millions of dollars toward converting several former hotels into housing. When all buildings are finally open, the projects will have added more than 350 low-income apartment units to the city’s housing stock in a little more than a year.

Anchorage faces a dearth of housing across all income levels, but especially for the city’s most vulnerable and low-income residents. Analysis by the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness found the city needs 2,478 low-income housing units to alleviate the housing gap.

That, coupled with a lack of shelter and growing homelessness, has galvanized city officials and private groups to act. They’ve turned to hotel conversions as a quick and affordable way to tackle the problem, renovating existing properties that once offered tourists and travelers a place to sleep, transforming them into mostly studio apartments and some one-bedrooms.

The conversion of the 130-room former GuestHouse Inn and Suites was the first to be finished last August in the downtown and Fairview area. Earlier this year, the nonprofit Anchorage Affordable Housing and Land Trust opened 45 rooms as housing in the LakeHouse — formerly the Lakeshore Inn in Spenard. The nonprofit’s next conversion will turn the former Barratt Inn in the Spenard area into 96 housing units.

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And after a lengthy and fraught political battle, on Thursday, nonprofit Henning Inc. began moving people who might otherwise be homeless into the 80-plus rooms in the city-owned former Golden Lion Hotel building.

The city also helped fund the purchase of the former Sockeye Inn, which last year was converted into Catholic Social Services’ Complex Care shelter, bringing online 61 units for homeless residents with significant medical needs.


“Often in the midst of crisis, we forget about the importance of celebrating successes,” the coalition’s executive director, Meg Zaletel, said at a news conference Thursday morning at the Barratt Inn. (Zaletel is also vice chair of the Anchorage Assembly, representing Midtown.)

On Thursday, 81-year-old Vaughn Munn was the first to move into the Golden Lion, which will house mainly people with significant mobility issues who need assistance with daily activities.

“It’s very nice to have everything I need. I’m real happy to be able to stay here,” said Munn, who has lived in Alaska since 1969. Munn was left partially paralyzed by a rare disorder, Guillain-Barre syndrome, he said.

At the Golden Lion, he has a shower he can safely use and he can walk safely, said Sarah Short, Munn’s previous landlord. At his previous apartment, which had stairs, he kept falling, so he couldn’t continue to stay there, she said. Short found him a spot at the Golden Lion.

“He can’t afford assisted living. He makes $7.90 too much to qualify for Medicaid to get into a real assisted living home. $7.90 — isn’t that insane?” Short said, also saying his income is Social Security through the VA.

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A group of volunteers and Short helped move his belongings into a room.

“All the collections of a lifetime here,” said Munn.

Earlier on Thursday at the news conference, Jason Bockenstedt, executive director of the housing and land trust, said projects like the Barratt Inn offer people who may not otherwise be able to rent a home a chance at a fresh start. Problems with previous rental history, like an eviction or bad credit, won’t matter — they won’t run credit checks, he said. And there aren’t prohibitive additional move-in costs like paying last month’s rent upfront or a large deposit. At the Barratt Inn, a deposit will be just $250, he said.

The conversions will help people “who are choosing between which bills to pay, (to) have a safe place to live so they can get back on their feet. It’s no secret that the housing costs in Anchorage has been increasing dramatically over the last decade,” Bockenstedt said.

The Rasmuson Foundation played a significant role in the projects, working with the city, capital investors and the coalition to raise $75 million to help the affordable housing crisis in Anchorage, said Margaret Salazar, Department of Housing and Urban Development regional administrator for the Pacific Northwest. That includes funding for the 3rd Avenue Resource & Navigation Center, which opened downtown earlier this year and connects unhoused people with social services.

Between 2020 and 2022, homelessness nationally did not grow. But in Anchorage, it rose an estimated 19% — which is likely an undercount, Salazar said.

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who has frequently been at odds with a majority of Assembly members over homelessness policy, lauded the partnerships with Rasmuson and other nonprofits to bring the converted hotel housing online. He echoed comments made in an interview earlier this week calling for the state to put more resources toward homelessness in Anchorage, which he said is a statewide problem that is concentrated in the municipality.

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“It’s going to be expensive. Folks on my side of the spectrum a lot of times say, ‘It’s not our problem,’ and we ignore it. Well, guess what? The cost of ignoring it is far greater than the cost of doing the right thing, and doing the right thing the right way,” Bronson said. “Just talk to the small businesses in the city. They’re paying the price. And I’m just telling you, as a conservative, this needs to be dealt with clearly, forcefully and, more importantly, effectively. And with the help of HUD and other agencies and the public-private partnerships that are represented here today, I think we can, in a coordinated way, get through this.”

With few low-barrier shelter beds available in the city and upwards of 750 people living unsheltered, large encampments have sprawled across some of the city’s parks, greenspaces and empty lots.

So far this year, 29 people believed to be homeless have died outside in Anchorage, much higher than last year’s record of 24.


Meanwhile, the municipality is scrambling to prepare for winter and find ways to open emergency shelter beds in the cold months. Bronson has proposed, as a last resort, offering plane tickets to people who want to go somewhere warmer, or home to family or friends, so they don’t freeze to death.

The city has also been hard-pressed to alleviate neighborhood concerns over unsheltered camping. Without shelter space, the city can do little to clear camps from public spaces, according to a federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. Previous city plans to clear camps this summer triggered lawsuits from the Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Salazar, Zaletel and other homeless advocates on Thursday emphasized that more housing is critical and, coupled with necessary support services, the real solution for Anchorage.

“Without adequate permanent housing assistance, communities often feel like the best that they can do is to manage the problem on a day-to-day basis by clearing encampments or pushing people and moving people around their cities to sleep in different locations. We understand that. We understand this is a hard problem every day,” Salazar said. “But we know that that doesn’t solve the problem. It just relocates it.”

Daily News photographer Bill Roth contributed.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at