Alaskans struggling to pay rent or utilities, and who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can now apply for housing relief through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.
Those who are eligible also include Alaskans living in unhealthy housing conditions, such as people who live in overcrowded lodging or who are at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault.
The housing relief program will provide up to 12 months of assistance to eligible applicants. Funding for the program comes from $200 million in federal funds from a coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress in December.
The funds will be directed to landlords, property managers and utility providers, with backpay “covered prior to current or future obligations,” AHFC said in a news release.
The application period starts today and runs through March 5. Applications are available online at www.alaskahousingrelief.org or by calling AHFC.
“This funding will provide critical breathing room for both renters and their landlords (who will receive payments on their behalf), potentially avoiding a disastrous tsunami of evictions across the state,” Bryan Butcher, the CEO and executive director of AHFC, said in a statement.
Butcher highlighted the hardships many Alaskans have experienced during the pandemic. Many lost their jobs when restaurants and businesses closed or reduced hours, and tourism stalled.
Some Alaskans also had to figure out how to balance working and caring for their children when schools closed for several months in Kodiak and around the state, requiring students to temporarily switch to remote learning.
As of Monday morning, 15,193 Alaskan households had preregistered for relief, including 202 from Kodiak.
Accessible and affordable housing in Alaska is a continuous issue, with demand for public housing exceeding supply. While every year Alaska families and senior citizens are put on waitlists for housing, the pandemic added additional pressures for housing needs, according to the AHFC’s 2020 annual report.
In fiscal 2020, waitlists increased by 782 households to 4,639 families and senior citizens in the 13 communities served by the AHFC, which includes Kodiak.
The corporation owns and operates 1,612 housing units in 13 communities, including Anchorage, Bethel, Cordova, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Kodiak, MatSu, Nome, Seward, Sitka, Valdez and Wrangell.
In addition to operating public housing, the AHFC also provides financing for multifamily complexes and single-family homes with loans and options for low- to moderate-income borrowers.
Alaska Housing also runs energy and weatherization programs, low-income rental assistance in 16 communities and programs for homeless people.
According to its annual report, since 1986, Alaska Housing has contributed more than $2.1 billion to Alaska’s state budget through cash transfers, capital projects and debt-service payments. As of the end of fiscal 2020, assets totaled $4.6 billion.