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We Build Alaska

From the Editors: End government-mandated housing scarcity and approve HOME

Last week, Charles Wohlforth authored an op-ed criticizing the HOME (Housing Opportunities in the Municipality for Everyone) Initiative currently before the Anchorage Assembly. HOME would remove zoning-based bans on duplexes throughout Anchorage as part of an effort to ease the city’s increasingly dire housing crisis.

Wohlforth praises a drawn-out and convoluted planning process established in the 1970s and continued into the 1990s, and makes an eyebrow-raising claim about the role of progressive values in Anchorage city planning:

“That comprehensive planning process involved everyone. Every community had meetings and got a say in its future. Special newspaper sections covered all the details. Progressive ideas led the discussion, including debating how to slow growth and limit the population of the city to preserve its quality of life.”

Read that last sentence again. Really read it. Wohlforth, who served on the Anchorage Assembly from 1993 to 1999, is making the extraordinary claim here that limiting the population of Anchorage was an explicit goal pursued by the progressives who established and led the city’s planning efforts. Today’s lack of housing, in other words, was no tragic accident. It was part of a plan.

Let’s get real: there is nothing “progressive” about manipulating the law in order to create housing scarcity. The chickens have now come home to roost, and our city’s housing crisis has caused skyrocketing home prices and rents, serious financial hardship, rampant homelessness (including disturbing rates of student homelessness in our university system), outmigration, and economic stagnation. Progressives should abhor attempts to use code to threaten the ability of lower and middle-income residents to afford homes in our community, and should applaud efforts to undo the severe and generational harm done by misguided anti-housing policies masquerading as progressivism.

Conservatives should also support efforts to roll back the exclusionary zoning policy of past decades. Anchorage’s zoning code has become an unwieldy Kafkaesque behemoth, riddled with bureaucracy and arbitrary government restrictions that diminish private property rights and harm property owners, builders, and those who need housing. Is banning duplexes really an essential and important role of government? Anchorage can retain our stringent building codes (we are in earthquake country, after all), while better allowing the free market to guide what types of housing folks build and where people choose to live.

In short, Anchorage’s current zoning regime violates progressive values by creating needless hardship for the least fortunate, and violates conservative values by taking away property rights and damaging the market’s ability to provide essential goods and services. Our housing shortage doesn’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican, or anything else. While HOME is only one step, folks across the political spectrum should appreciate that it is a meaningful step in the right direction.

The Editors of the Alaska Landmine urge the Assembly to approve HOME. The public process for HOME has been extensive and robust, and the Assembly has an obligation to correct the failed ideas and policies of the past while building on the things that make Anchorage an attractive–and viable–place to live.

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Anchorage person
23 days ago

Let’s quote the entire section & not cherry pick:

Progressive ideas led the discussion, including debating how to slow growth and limit the population of the city to preserve its quality of life. These leaders wanted racial equity and grassroots democracy. Their adversaries, conservatives of the day, favored unplanned development to allow land owners and builders to make money as quickly as possible without having to follow any rules.

You can read the entire opinion piece here: https://www.adn.com/opinions/2024/06/21/opinion-past-racism-isnt-a-reason-to-change-anchorage-zoning-laws/

Brian Sweeney
23 days ago

You think throwing in classic false racism claims when policy is indefensible makes him look better? CW is a classic lefty determined to push agenda and create misery.

Reggie Taylor
23 days ago

Picking cherries is appropriate when you’re making cherry pie. It’s no secret that liberal/leftists do everything in their power to limit infrastructural growth and development, and that is what the author was pointing out in order to then discuss the ramifications that we’re today smothered with. Your attempt to muddy the point with Wohlforths attempted smear about completely uncontrolled growth for the sake of greed while he backs completely uncontrolled growth for the sake of political/ideological desperation would be comical if it wasn’t so dangerous. Tiny homes in back yards is not going to solve the homeless crisis or provide… Read more »

Anchorage person
23 days ago
Reply to  Reggie Taylor

Read the piece. His quote about Minneapolis is spot on: Cities in the Lower 48 are rightly addressing their zoning to provide more housing and better integration. Minneapolis was a leader when it changed zoning city-wide, getting rid of all single-family zoning districts, as is now proposed here. But to reach that conclusion, Minneapolis used a multi-year comprehensive planning process with total community involvement. Not everyone agreed with the outcome, but the public knew what was happening and the final product had majority support. The Minneapolis 2040 plan was the result. If this plan is what Anchorage wants then we… Read more »

Government Hillbilly
23 days ago

Just because Minneapolis took a long time to do something doesn’t mean we need to as well. We have more information than Minneapolis (for one, we have the example of Minneapolis to look at!) so we can move faster. And let’s face it: the housing crisis has gotten a LOT worse in the last few years, so there is a huge imperative to move quickly. A lot of the people who created our housing mess are the ones opposing HOME now. It’s literally been the same people for decades. Pease, Holmes, Weddleton, etc. Heck, when Charles Wohlforth was on the… Read more »

Government Hillbilly
23 days ago

Also, what “public input” do you actually think is lacking? Opponents of H.O.M.E. keep saying “we want more public process” but don’t seem to say what public process they think is necessary. There have been tons of public meetings, presentations, etc. about this. ADN has had op-eds and letters to the editor about this nonstop for months. All of the NIMBY groups are super riled up. Funny how virtually ALL of the people calling for “public process” are also aggressively opposing this. Sure seems like “public process” = stop.

Howard Lone
22 days ago

Ton of public meetings? Are you kidding me? 3 minutes at a podium to state your comments is not a ton of public meetings. Also, the experience in Minneapolis is that the number of new duplexes/triplexes is a tiny drop in the bucket of new housing starts. Eliminating parking minimums has had more of an impact. The zoning changes have done very little. So awesome, short non-robust public process to make a change that will make little difference.

Reggie Taylor
22 days ago

“…….Not everyone agreed with the outcome, but the public knew what was happening……..”
In a short sentence, you’ve just described the end of our culture and civilization as has been progressing over the past 30 or so years. I’d congratulate you, but it’s painfully clear that you wrote those words purely by accident.

Akwhitty
23 days ago

H.O.M.E. I worked for mine.

Howard Lone
23 days ago

Anyone who thinks the public process from HOME has been extensive and robust does not understand what that means. 3 minutes at a podium to state your opinion is not robust. Going to give presentations at a community council meeting without any real dialogue or discussion is not robust. What a joke.

Martin
23 days ago

Boy, talk about out-of-context! Wohlforth was referring to the ’70s, likely before either of you were born. I just reread the recent article of his that you attack in your diatribe, and I fail to see that it is anti-HOME. I would urge your readers to read his article for themselves and not get sucked into your biased misinterpretation. Wohlforth knows more about Anchorage and Alaskan history than both of you jokers combined.

Stop meddling, Charles
23 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Are you serious? His whole diatribe was anti-HOME. He says he doesn’t think rezoning will help our housing problems (spoiler: it will) and he says over and over again that our reactionary NIMBY-dominated planning process is some kind of “progressive” victory (spoiler: it isn’t). Wohlforth is a wealthy NIMBY who can’t just meddle in his own back yard, but who has to meddle in the back yards of people in a state he doesn’t even live in.

Akwhitty
19 days ago

Chuck, you will never get a home unless you inherit it

Stop meddling, Charles
23 days ago

Charles Wohlforth needs to get a life. He doesn’t even live in Alaska anymore (to his credit, he says as much in his article). Maybe the reason he doesn’t think there’s been enough public process around HOME because he doesn’t live here, didn’t know about it, and didn’t participate in it.

Cindy Johnson
22 days ago

Many years back, maybe a decade, the city commissioned a group to come to Anchorage and assess the growth of housing and where to go. Their conclusion was we allowed this mess by not planning and now there really is no land left for growth. I foresee an Anchorage so crowded with inappropriate housing that is more expensive per square foot and makes Anchorage look like NYC.

Reggie Taylor
22 days ago
Reply to  Cindy Johnson

“……..we allowed this mess by not planning and now there really is no land left for growth………”
I refer you to the creation of Chugach State Park in 1970, especially its the western borders established at that time, as well as the now 50 year resistance to the Knik Arm “Bridge to Nowhere” and suggest that all of that was quite well planned, the plan is proceeding efficiently, and any resistence to that plan will be met with rabid confrontation.

erak
18 days ago

There are only 2 ways to grow: density and/or sprawl. Because the MOA makes higher density difficult, we have grown by sprawl. For years Matsu residential building permits exceeds MOA.