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Gara, Costello, Receive Award for Housing Legislation

Alaska Chapter of the American Planning Association recognizes HB50 for Best Practices

Today, the Alaska Chapter of the American Planning Association honored Representative Les Gara and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation with its Best Practices Award for their work on legislation to promote vibrant neighborhoods and desirable businesses in low and middle income residential developments.

"Rep. Costello and I eliminated an archaic rule banning restaurants, stores, day care and other desirable businesses from AHFC financed or owned housing for low and middle income Alaskans and seniors. As long as allowed by local zoning rules, neighborhoods and communities shouldn't be banned from being vibrant," Gara said.

The chapter also gave special thanks to Representative Mia Costello (R-Anchorage) and Cook Inlet Housing Authority for their important work on the legislation.

"Rep Costello joined as a prime co-sponsor after I and downtown constituents learned the popular downtown Inlet Towers would have to close its restaurant under this rule few knew of.  Rep. Costello also felt strongly about fixing this problem statewide. As part of the sausage -making process, we even reversed the order of our names on the bill to help it pass.  I consider this a joint award with Rep. Costello," Gara said. 

Allowing good community-oriented businesses to operate in the same places where people live is good for businesses, good for the economy and jobs, and good for building vibrant, affordable neighborhoods.”

The bill (HB 50) authorizes the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to allow certain non-profit and commercial uses like restaurants, retail stores, coffee shops, medical offices, and day care centers in multi-unit residential housing developments it owns or finances. This mixed-use development promotes a sense of community and provides neighborhood residents with easy access to commonly-used services.

The legislation also helps AHFC and developers to use income from business rent to offset project costs, thereby allowing them to make more projects economic and build more housing to meet Alaska’s growing demand for affordable housing.

HB 50 does not allow charitable gaming or adult entertainment businesses or businesses that primarily sell alcohol or tobacco in AHFC owned or financed mixed-use properties. Restaurants would be able to get liquor licenses for operations in AHFC owned or financed buildings, but bars or night clubs would not. Similarly, grocery stores in the buildings would be allowed to sell tobacco products.

HB 50 passed during the 2013 legislative session and AHFC reports enthusiastic interest in this measure by developers who want to move ahead needed neighborhood housing.

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