Many excellent organizations in Alaska provide housing and weatherization services. The Association of Alaska Housing Authorities (AAHA) includes fourteen regional housing authorities and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC). Alaska’s regional housing authorities build, renovate, and weatherize homes, provide assistance in purchasing a home, offer renter and homebuyer education, develop infrastructure for housing development, and build community facilities.
The housing authorities work with a variety of funders and partners including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Office of American Native Programs, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Rural Development, Denali Commission, Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle/Affordable Housing Grant Program, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the Housing Assistance Council. To learn more about the services provided by regional housing authorities, please visit their website at www.aahaak.org.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The Alaska Weatherization Directors Association is comprised of the AHFC partner agencies who currently deliver both the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Alaska Weatherization programs. Together, this accounts for over 60% of the total weatherization production statewide. The main goal of the Weatherization Assistance Program is to conserve energy. This is accomplished by reducing air leakage, increasing insulation, and improving heating system efficiency. In all weatherization projects, local hire is an important element which provides employment and leaves communities with a more skilled labor pool. Priority is given to Elders, individuals with disabilities, and households with children under six years old.
The AHFC partner agencies that provide weatherization services are RurAL CAP, Alaska Community Development Corporation, and Interior Weatherization.
RurAL CAP serves Anchorage, Juneau, Northwest and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta regions. Currently, Weatherization services are being provided to Chevak, Eek, Kotzebue, Nome, Shaktoolik, Unalakleet, Juneau and Anchorage. In 2015, Mountain Village and Stoney River will be added to the list.
The Alaska Community Development Corporation serves Mat-Su, Southeast (except Juneau), Kenai Peninsula Borough, Lake and Peninsula Borough, City of Kodiak and road-connected areas, the Taylor Highway System, and the Tok area.
Interior Weatherization serves Fairbanks, North Pole, and the road system in the interior to Circle, Cantwell and Delta Junction. Additional weatherization services are provided by the regional housing authorities.
Housing and Weatherization Services in Alaska
Housing First is a program designed to move long-term homeless chronic alcoholics off the streets directly into permanent housing. Pioneered more than a decade ago in other states, Housing First has been shown to reduce the cost burden to society in expensive emergency response, medical and criminal justice resources, while making gains in harm reduction for this challenging population.
In 2011, RurAL CAP opened Karluk Manor, a Housing First facility with 46 units located in downtown Anchorage. The Tanana Chiefs Conference opened a Housing First facility in May 2012 with plans to gradually expand to 47 occupants as the building becomes fully staffed. There is a growing need to expand Housing First to other parts of the state, especially in Southeast Alaska and the regional hubs.
Homeward Bound is a 25-bed transitional living facility in Anchorage which also serves the chronic public inebriate homeless population. Operated by RurAL CAP, it is one of only a few programs in the country for this population with comprehensive services ranging from detox and transitional housing to life skills and employment training. The program includes intensive case management designed to reintegrate the program residents into independent living.
The Self-Help Housing Program provides first time home buyers with a unique opportunity for affordable home ownership. Participants earn “sweat” equity in their homes eliminating the need for a down payment. Homes are built by mutual group construction under the direction of a construction supervisor. Funds to support the program are provided by USDA Mutual Self-Help Housing Program. The Alaska Community Development Corporation and RurAL CAP offer the program in Alaska. Since RurAL CAP began operation the program in the central Kenai Peninsula communities of Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai, 42 homes have been built and more are on the way. Six homes in Soldotna are currently under construction with another 11 scheduled to break ground in October 2014. There are tentative plans to add ten families from Nikiski in 2015 and expand the program to Sitka in 2016.
The Cook Inlet Housing Authority and RurAL CAP are two of the organizations that provide safe, attractive and affordable housing units in Anchorage. Housing is provided to individuals with limited credit and rental history. Affordable housing helps boost the local economy by purchasing local building materials and hiring local subcontractors. The Cook Inlet Housing Authority owns and/or operates 926 affordable rental units and has built 56 affordable, single family homes for immediate homeownership. RurAL CAP owns 128 affordable housing units in Anchorage and intends to add 105 more units by the end of 2014.
Looking Forward – Safe Harbor Inn
This fall, RurAL CAP plans to acquire the Safe Harbor Inn located in Anchorage. Safe Harbor provides safe, secure, comfortable lodging for low-income individuals and families struggling to avoid becoming homeless — especially those with physical and with mental disabilities — many of whom are clients of local social service agencies, health care organizations, and job training and employment programs. According to Corrine O’Neill, RurAL CAP’s Director of Supportive Housing who is managing the project, “the goal is to help residents get back on their feet, and move on to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.” Eventually, RurAL CAP hopes to add 15 more apartment units to the Safe Harbor complex which will keep a total of 120 units of permanent and transitional housing in Anchorage between low-income residents and the possibility of becoming homeless.Decent and affordable housing provides a strong foundation for family well-being. When housing is safe and affordable, families spend more time focusing on health, nutrition, education, employment and other important components of their quality of life.