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Deadline nears to apply for rental assistance in Anchorage

Suzanna Caldwell

The deadline is nearing for Anchorage residents hoping for housing assistance from the state's public-housing corporation.

There's only seven days left for residents of Alaska's largest city to apply for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's (AHFC) Housing Choice Voucher Program. The program helps families subsidize rental costs. Eligible families find their own rental property and pay 30 percent of their adjusted income in rent; a voucher picks up the rest.

This year AHFC changed the way it distributes the aid, switching from a points-based system to a lottery. Before applicants were assigned points based on certain criteria. Those in the most-serious need of housing gained priority, pushing other applicants down the list. That meant it could take months or years to receive housing assistance.

The lottery system is expected to give people a better sense of when they'll receive aid.

AHFC expected at least 2,500 people apply for the lottery program. As of Wednesday, just 1,061 applications have been received for the program according to spokesman Soren Johansson. Unless there’s a late rush, the program may be extended -- or reopened earlier than expected.

Before it being reconfigured, the voucher program had been closed for years as AHFC worked through the long list of applicants. Under the new program, the lottery might open every few months or once a year, depending on the interest.

Affordable housing in Anchorage is notoriously hard to find. Rental vacancies are low, with the vacancy rate of a 1-bedroom apartment at 1.7 percent; for 2-bedroom apartments the vacancy rate is 1.9 percent. Low vacancy rates push the cost of rental units up. The average cost of a 2-bedroom apartment in Anchorage is $1,200 a month.

Those wishing to apply for the program can go online or apply in person at any AHFC public housing location. Lottery applicants will be notified of their status in mid-November.