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Affordable housing problems persist, large units scarce

Posted: July 18, 2012 - 12:00am  |  Updated: July 18, 2012 - 7:00am

ANCHORAGE — Finding an affordable rental home in Anchorage is difficult but it can be nearly impossible for large families.

According to Tuesday’s Anchorage Daily News, social service providers and economists say the scarcity of affordable housing in Alaska’s largest city is a persistent problem that is making thing particularly tough for families with more than four people.

“It’s very, very difficult to find an affordable apartment that is three bedrooms or more,” said Rhoda Myers who works with Catholic Social Services’ program for homeless families. “The cost just skyrockets.”

An Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Survey found that in 2012, the median monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Anchorage is $1,400. The median price for a four-bedroom apartment is $2,217.

To spend no more than a third of income on rent, an earner would need to work full time for $27.88 an hour, or about $58,000 a year, to afford a three-bedroom apartment in Anchorage, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A four-bedroom apartment would require the earner to make $33.96 an hour. Or about $70,000 a year.

This year the vacancy rate in Anchorage is just 2.8 percent. In Alaska, only Kodiak with little buildable land and a transient Coast Guard population has a lower rate.

Part of the problem is that developers have little financial incentive to build larger rental units, said Daniel Delfini, a planner with the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

“They take up more square footage with less revenue generation,” he said.

He said the rent that landlords would need to charge to make a profit would easily be as much or more than a mortgage on a single-family home.

Myers said some families improvise by putting six or more people in a two or three bedroom apartment.

AHFC considers two people per bedroom the maximum occupancy before a unit is considered substandard housing.

“I’m basically homeless,” said Joe Filley, a 33-year-old man who needs a place in Anchorage for himself and his five children, his girlfriend and her child. He’s now living in his sister’s basement den.

He said many landlords won’t even show him an apartment after finding out how many children would live there.

He took time off from work as a construction worker and cable installer last week to apply for a housing voucher. If things go right, he might be able to find a place big enough and have money left over after paying his bills.

“I would love to have each of my kids have their own room. But I know it’s not realistic,” he said.

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