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January 20, 2003

'Affordable' housing plans take shape

From:, AK - 20 Jan 2003

By Christina Sessions
Alaska Journal of Commerce

Anchorage Housing Initiatives has teamed up with the Municipality of Anchorage and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop accessible housing in Anchorage suited to the disabled. The goal of the demonstration project, called Welcome Home, is to increase homeownership among the disabled by providing affordable housing.

Anchorage Housing Initiatives received grant funding through the Municipality Community Development Division from HUD HOME Program funds, to build three handicapped accessible single-family homes.

"Affordable housing in Anchorage for persons experiencing disabilities is scarce, and retrofitting an existing home to accommodate a disabled person is often difficult and expensive," said Shannon Wilks, Anchorage Housing Initiatives board president, in a press release.

Several businesses around Anchorage provided free or at-cost services and products for the first home of the Welcome Home project. J & K Construction served as the general contractor. Partusch Plumbing & Heating contributed the plumbing and forced air heating supplies and installation at cost.

"Even as busy as we are, we can usually find time to send a crew to work on the project," said Toni Partusch, shop foreman, whose company has participated in constructing Habitat for Humanity homes in the past.

Spenard Builders Supply provided much of the building materials.

"We also received a $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo to do the landscaping for the three homes," Wilks said.

Charles and Elizabeth Brooks donated $10,000 from the price of the lot in the form of a charitable contribution, she said.

The first of the three homes went on the market Dec. 27. The selling price for the house is $165,000. Qualified buyers could receive a no-interest second mortgage, known as a "soft second" which would subsidize the cost by up to $70,000, said Kathy Day, spokeswoman for the project.

The second mortgage will be underwritten by Anchorage Housing Initiatives. The buyer will not have to repay the second mortgage unless they default on the first loan or sell the house to someone who does not qualify for the program, she said. First National Bank Alaska will provide the first mortgage.

An open house held on Dec. 28th received a tremendous response.

"They filled five pages in the guest book," said Day.

Five applications were submitted during the open house, she said. In order to qualify for the home, at least one of the buyers must be disabled, live independently and qualify for the mortgage loan.

The 1,380-square-foot home is completely wheel chair accessible including widened doorways and ramps at every entrance. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage. The structure also contains features to accommodate the hearing impaired and will be fitted with Braille fixtures if the buyer is blind.

Anchorage Housing Initiatives is in the process of negotiating a deal on the lot for the second home. Representatives from Bates & Associates, the real estate firm for the project, are still looking for a suitable, affordable lot for the third home.

"Most of the lots out there are $60,000 to 70,000 and that doesn't fit within our budget," said Anita Bates, broker for Bates & Associates.

The lot must be $55,000 or less and within the municipality of Anchorage. Other requirements include access to public utilities and public transportation, said Bates.

Construction on the second home is scheduled to proceed in the spring as weather permits. Anchorage Housing Initiatives hopes to complete the second and third homes by the end of 2003, Day said.

© 2002 The Alaska Journal of Commerce and Morris Communications Corp.