2nd Class City
in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough
- Area Type
- Current Population
- Population Comment
- 2013 DCCED Certified Estimate
- Pronunciation/Other Names
- Census Designated Place (CDP)
- Borough/Census Area FIPS Code
- Place FIPS
Election, Recording, and Judicial Districts
- Senate District
- House District
- Judicial District
- Recording District
Facilities and Amenities
- Municipal Facilities & Utilities
- Volunteer Fire Department, Police Department, Animal Control, Roads, Park Management (Borough Contract)
Geography and Climate
- Houston is located 18 miles northwest of Wasilla and 57 road miles north of Anchorage. It lies on the George Parks Highway, along the Little Susitna River.
- January temperatures range from -33 to 33 °F; July temperatures range from 42 to 83 °F. The average annual rainfall is 15 inches, mostly from mid-July to early September, with 45 inches of snow. Winds are frequently lower than the Palmer/Wasilla area, with daily averages ranging from 0 to 6 mph.
- Community Map Available
- Sq Mi Land
- Sq Mi Water
History and Culture
- Herning Trail (now Willow Creek Sled Trail) was used for freighting supplies to the Willow Creek Mining District. "Houston Siding" was first listed on a blueprint map of the Alaska Railroad in 1917; it was named after Congressman Houston of Tennessee. Several coal mines were developed in the area during 1917-18. A railroad spur was constructed to the Janios & Athens coal mine, which supplied coal to Anchorage and the LaTouche Mining Company in Prince William Sound. The coal found in Houston was used extensively by the U.S. Navy up through World War II, when the mines shut down. In the mid-1920s, the Heaven brothers operated a mink farm at mile 59.6. In 1953-54, gravel roads and power lines were extended west of Wasilla, and Houston was quickly settled. In 1966, Houston incorporated as a third-class city; it was reclassified as a second-class city in 1973. In 1998, tests were conducted into the availability, quantity, and quality of natural gas and found huge deposits of coal-bed methane, but the wells were capped due to local restrictions and a lack of marketing.
- Houston is a rural-residential community that experiences consistent growth and is encouraging businesses to relocate to the community. Popular recreation sites include Little Su Campground, Long Lake, Cheri Lake, Prator Lake, Loon Lake, Woody Lake, Zero Lake, Bear Paw Lake, and Birch Lake. The Pike Derby is held during the winter months, and Founder's Day, a community celebration, boasts live entertainment, vendors, activities for kids, and a fireworks display. Trails for hiking and ATVs crisscross most of Houston and are popular in the winter months for dog sledders and snowmachiners. During the summer months, a water trail is popular in the Nancy Lakes region. There are several community organizations, such as the Mid-Valley Seniors, Homesteaders Community Center, Susitna Rotary, Houston Lions, and Houston Chamber of Commerce. Elementary students attend Big Lake and Willow schools. The Houston High School and Middle School serve students from the surrounding area.
- Federally Recognized Tribe
- Incorporation Type
- 2nd Class City
- Public Education
- Not permitted to provide this service.
- Planning, Platting and Land Use Regulation
- Not required to exercise the powers in any circumstance, but may be permitted in all cases in the manner described for first class cities.
- Property Tax Powers
- May tax up to 20 mills, except where a higher levy is required to avoid default. Voter approval required.
- Sales Tax Powers
- No limit on the rate of levy of sales taxes; however, voter approval is required.
- Other Powers Not Prohibited
- May exercise other powers not prohibited by law.
- City Council or Assembly Composition and Apportionment
- 7 members elected at-large, except the council may provide for election other than at-large.
- Election and Term of Mayor
- Elected from the city council for a 1-year term, unless a longer term is provided by ordinance. Mayor selected by council (or by voters upon adoption of ordinance).
- Vote by Mayor
- Votes on all matters.
- Veto Power of the Mayor
- Does not have veto power.
- Power of Eminent Domain
- Permitted, but requires voter approval.
- Ability to Attain Home-Rule Status
- May not adopt home-rule charter without first reclassifying to a first-class city.
- Houston lies on the Parks Highway and the Alaska railroad north of Anchorage. Full air service is available at Anchorage International Airport. Other local air service is available at Mat-Su's small airports. A local seaplane base exists on Morvro Lake.
- State Ferry
- Cargo Barge
- Road Connection