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

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