Ken Graham

A dramatic turnaround of a blighted neighborhood in Anchorage, Alaska, is being honored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the American Planning Association (APA).

The Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA) will receive the 2014 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award for its revitalization of the Mountain View Village community, one of Anchorage’s oldest neighborhoods.

Presented jointly by HUD and APA, the award honors excellence in community planning resulting in measurable benefits in terms of increased economic development, employment, education, or housing choice and mobility for low- and moderate-income residents. Emphasis is placed on how creative housing, economic development, and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to empower a community.

“The remarkable turnaround of Mountain View Village is an outstanding example of how innovative thinking and the power of partnerships can transform communities,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a statement. “The Cook Inlet Housing Authority reminds us that a great vision and a lot of elbow grease can work miracles.”

CIHA identified Mountain View Village as the best location to enact a revitalization program. With the highest Alaska Native population in Anchorage, Mountain View Village also had the highest-level need and lowest income. CIHA collaborated with the Mountain View Community Council in the planning process. The council’s goals included decreased absentee landlordism, increased homeownership, and demolition of blighted, deteriorated, or vacant structures, all of which have been accomplished under CIHA.

CIHA selected a scattered-site development approach so the housing improvements were not limited to a single block or area of the neighborhood. In the homes it has built, CIHA has utilized a variety of housing styles, colors, and designs. Front porches and exterior lighting are included in every home to deter crime, and landscaping and fencing are used to present barriers to unwanted foot traffic. Families of all sizes can utilize these newly developed residences, as spaces range from studio apartments to four-bedroom single-family homes.

The organization has invested approximately $84 million in Mountain View in land acquisition, redevelopment or development of rentals and immediate homes for sale, and low-interest financing for homeowners. CIHA’s revitalization efforts include the demolition of 130 blighted structures, building in their place 277 affordable homes. Fifty-one new single-family homes have been built for immediate homeownership—50 of those have sold. To date, CIHA has redeveloped a total of 10 percent of all residential units in Mountain View Village.

View a video of the transformation.