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Planner: Juneau needs affordable housing

$250,000 is the sweet spot for renters seeking to become home buyers

Posted: March 14, 2012 - 12:05am  |  Updated: March 14, 2012 - 6:45am
The city is currently working on a Willoughby District plan.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
The city is currently working on a Willoughby District plan.

City of Juneau senior planner Beth McKibben introduced a draft 2012 Comprehensive Plan to the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission Tuesday that calls for more housing units, particularly in the $250,000 range.

McKibben said that renters can afford to buy homes in the $250,000 range, but there are few homes in that range in Juneau. By providing homes in that price range, McKibben said, renters can graduate to home owners.

Karen Lawfer of the Title 49 Committee recommended McKibben add more nuanced language when defining low-income, lower-income and homeless Juneauites.

“Lower-income housing might be appropriate,” Lawfer said. “The whole comprehensive plan is looking to address the lower-income housing. We need to define that. I don’t want everybody to think that there is low-income or homeless and everybody else.”

“Whenever we talk about affordable housing I say I have an poster from an affordable housing seminar from 1974,” Vice Clerk Nicole Grewe said. “It’s what we’re up against.”

“A lot of downtown housing has been preempted by other private uses,” Bennett said.

Commission members recommend the city update some of the information in the draft plan.

“This ambitious goal will require an infusion of development capital in infrastructure and a lot of focus on affordable housing and low-income housing, et cetera, could we add overall housing,” Vice Chairman Dennis Watson said.

Stipulations put on rental properties rules some families out. A U.S. Coast Guard presentation said the guard had 8 or 9 families living in hotels waiting for housing, Watson said. When you look at real availability in Juneau housing, it’s a tough one,” Watson said.

Commissioners called for easy-to-read tables and graphs to make information readily available.

There are 847 parcels, 119 of which are CBJ owned, which are vacant or underused in the Juneau urban area.

Lawfer said land prices might restrict development in Juneau, “When you are talking just the lot is $150,000 to $200,000.”

She said the city has disposed of property in the past and has property to sell now, but it might be cost prohibitive.

Chairman Michael Sartre said the commission is going to work on the plan over more than one commission meeting.

Grewe recommended the Juneau Economic Development Council respond to the draft plan.

The commission set aside the plan’s policies and implementing actions until the next meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for March 27 at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers.

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