With New ADU Rules, Anchorage Leading U.S. Zoning Reform Efforts

Anchorage recently passed a package of laws that will allow accessory dwelling units in commercial and residential zones, and, in a rare move, on residential lots with existing multi-family housing.

1 minute read

March 22, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


An aerial view of the Anchorage metropolitan area shows sprawling development surrounded by tall mountains.

Karel Stipek / Shutterstock

The Anchorage Assembly recently approved a reform package that will allow more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in Alaska’s largest city.

According to an article by Jeanette Lee for the Sightline Institute, the city will ease ADU permitting and construction by “allowing bonus homes on more kinds of properties and removing owner-occupancy requirements and onerous design rules.”

Anchorage’s ADU reforms allow a bonus home in all commercial and residential zones and on all kinds of housing, including large, multifamily buildings. Owners can build a bonus home, or buy a home that comes with one, but no longer have to live on the property. Design-based barriers, including square footage, height, and architectural requirements, were eased or eliminated. The ordinance requires the city planning department to help people navigate the permitting process and start tracking the number of ADUs. Anchorage already did away with parking mandates, another design-related impediment to ADUs, in a separate ordinance last year.    

Lee also describes Anchorage’s amended ADU codes as significant compared to other zoning reform efforts around the country. “Most cities limit ADUs to lots with single houses in residential zones,” for example, “But Anchorage now allows them with multifamily homes, too.” 

Anchorage also made zoning reform news in November, when it eliminated  parking requirements citywide.

Friday, March 17, 2023 in Sightline Institute

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Green meadow with water running through and trees on either side in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Meadow Undergoing Major Restoration

Rangeland recently acquired from private owners is being restored to a more natural state thanks to a purchase by the Trust for Public Land.

June 17 - San Francisco Chronicle

Large black SYV driving down city street with blurred background.

GAO to Investigate How Vehicle Design Impacts Safety

A lax set of rules around vehicle size, height, and other factors is partly responsible for the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths in the United States.

June 17 - Streetsblog USA

Worker in yellow safety suit holding up orange SLOW sign on road

New Orleans Faces $1 Billion Shortfall for FEMA-Funded Roadwork

After years of delays, cost overruns, and deadline extensions on a FEMA-funded street repair program, New Orleans officials face a massive funding shortfall and accusations of mismanagement.

June 17 - NOLA.com

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.