Cook Inlet Housing Authority (Anchorage, AK)

Organization and Community

The Cook Inlet Housing Authority is a tribally designated housing entity serving the Cook Inlet region, including Anchorage, Alaska. The agency develops, owns and operates a large portfolio of affordable housing throughout the region, serving not only tribal members and other Alaska Natives and Native Americans, but also the diverse population of greater Anchorage. Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s offices are located in Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood, formerly a separate city and bohemian community that is home to artists, artisans, and musicians. The organization focused most of its arts and cultural strategies in Spenard, although they have recently implemented new approaches to community design and engagement in other neighborhoods. Cook Inlet Housing Authority is guided by Alaska Native values and the Community Development Investments program provided the staff the opportunity to incorporate those values into activities and practices that enhanced their capacity to meet residents’ housing needs more effectively, and to build genuine community in Spenard.

Arts and Culture Approach

For all of its appreciation of the unconventional, Spenard is also a place in need of serious investment in its physical and social infrastructure: the spaces and connections that can knit a community together. Cook Inlet Housing Authority identified the need and an opportunity to use arts and culture to encourage residents’ involvement in local planning and design, and to unify them. The organization sought to solve problems in new ways and elevate community voices. After some initial awkwardness while engaging with local artists, Cook Inlet Housing Authority developed a thoughtful, systematic, and innovative approach guided by their organizational values. Their collaborative experimentation in activating space, creative placemaking, and problem solving demonstrates Cook Inlet Housing Authority’s strategic intent to infuse their work with novel strategies and insights.