Seventy-seven  per cent of all home buyers, regardless of age or geographical location,  prefer to live in a detached single family home. That percentage has consistently increased since 2003 when the National Association of Home Builders first began surveying buyer preferences.  According to the local MLS, approximately 2000 to 2,200 single family homes are annually sold. About seventy-percent of those homes are now more than thirty years old which is when many homes begin to experience economic obsolescence.  Unfortunately, the MOA’s zoning requirements make the replacement of those homes very expensive. A new home has about a $75,000 to $100,000 price tag above a resale property of similar size.

 

One way to narrow that gap is to increase lot coverage ratios and decrease the size of a single family lot.  Currently, in the MOA R1 zone  the minimum lot size is 6,000. And the lot coverage ratio is 30% for a two-story home and 40% for a ranch.  In   Alaska’s second largest city,  Fairbanks, the  minimum lot  size is 5,000 square feet and there is no maximum lot coverage. The Fairbanks home needs only to meet the setback requirements. Boise, Idaho, also has a 5,000 square foot minimum lot size and it has no maximum lot coverage ratio; nor does Henderson, Nevada.   Vancouver, Washington has a 50% lot coverage ratio for 5,000 square foot lots and Spokane, Washington has a 55% lot coverage ratio.

 

Mesa, Arizona has a 50% lot coverage requirement. Twin Falls, Idaho, has a 60% requirement. Corpus, Christi, Texas has a 70% lot coverage ratio for single family homes.  I’ve selected these communities not just because I’m an advocate for smaller lots and higher lot coverage ratios but because many Alaskans have visited these communities; have friends and relatives who live, work and play there and these communities are  excellent examples of communities who have successfully increased single family home building.   

 

Last October only 180 single family  permits were issued in Anchorage and so far only 168 in 2019.  Compare that to  2015 when  274 single family homes were permitted for the same time period.  We all acknowledge that Anchorage has a limited supply of vacant land zoned for single family homes.  The only way to reduce both the cost of the lot and the home to be built is to reduce single family lot size and/or increase the maximum lot coverage ratio. Since buyers strongly prefer a single family home with a double or triple car garage and four bedrooms compared to three the most reasonable solution is to increase the lot coverage ratio to 50% as other communities have successfully developed without destroying the concept of a single family neighborhood.