According to the Chugiak –Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, the area represents an estimated 12 percent of the Municipality of Anchorage’s population. Its last estimated population was 35,600, a 38% increase over the past twenty years. Long considered a stepsister to its more urban Anchorage neighbors, you might be surprised to know that 37% of its residents have college degrees, 65% of its residents are married and 62% work in the private sector- the vast majority of which take that five day drive into Anchorage’s employment centers. The community also has strong roots in the military with 21 percent of residents 18 years or older identifying themselves as having military/veteran status. That’s clearly evident on Memorial and Veterans Day when dozens of U.S. flags fly on homes in popular neighborhoods like Eagle Crossing and Powder Ridge. Much of Eagle River’s popularity comes from its scenic beauty. It is what most Lower 48 residents dream about Alaska – a view of mountains and glaciers out their living room windows. Where your next door neighbors are moose, eagles, and even the occasional black bear on your back deck. Its scenic beauty rivals that of Anchorage’s hillside and it has a plethora of trails, biking, cross country skiing, and rafting on its name sake, Eagle River.
However, when it comes to housing, there are some important differences between the two communities. You will be surprised to know that its average sales price is $363,514 or approximately $7,500 more than its more urban neighbor which averages in at $355,000. Currently, in Anchorage there are 154 homes for sale between $150,000 and $300,000 compared to just 16 in Eagle River. Despite the obvious difference in population, there is clearly more pressure on the Eagle River market in the affordable category. What Eagle River does not have for sale are luxury homes. Only three homes for sale are above $750,000 compared to 72 in Anchorage. However, there is a quiet trend for more custom homes built, not on speculation, but on a presale basis.
Unlike most of Anchorage, Eagle River still has land for residential development owned by Eklutna, the Heritage Land Bank, and in the hands of private developers. With proper planning and cooperation by AWWU and the MOA, Eagle River has the capacity to stop the population drain to the Valley. The underlying basis and cost for all housing are its municipal codes and land use regulations. In the past, builders could obtain a land use permit for Eagle River-Chugiak with only proof of zoning. If this changes with the interpretation of the new Title 21 and its oversight extending to Chugiak-Eagle River, this stable and budding community will fall victim to yet another bureaucratic bottle neck.