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Affordable housing project discussed

Could a 'Home Run' project meet local rental housing needs?

Posted: July 10, 2012 - 11:01pm

The City and Borough of Juneau Affordable Housing Commission met Tuesday to discuss a proposal for 105 new housing units to be built in three phases near the Airport.

The project would be developed, and funding found, by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The first phase, an addition to the Society’s Smith Hall, would provide affordable senior housing in its upper two floors. The bottom floor would house a convenience store for the residents and a thrift store. Phase two and three, called the Home Run project, would add the 93 remaining units in a nearby development. Units would run from 270-square-foot studio apartments to three-bedroom apartments.

Affordable housing is defined as meeting a purchase price of less than $250,000, or a rental at 80 percent to 120 percent of HUD’s Median Family Income level.

The project would result in 51 efficiency apartments, 33 one-bedroom units, a dozen two-bedroom and nine three-bedroom affordable apartments.

In a letter to the commission from Dan Austin, general manager of Saint Vincent de Paul, Austin said the project would specifically help single seniors living on Social Security. These residents “on average lack more than $300 per month in income in order to afford housing at Fair Market Rates,” Austin said. The Smith Hall Studios project would deliver housing “at a price low-income seniors can afford without subsidies.” Austin went on to say that this Juneau demographic is expected to double in a decade.

Saint Vincent de Paul is asking for help funding its 270 square foot senior apartments through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and through a CBJ matching grant of around $1 million.

Committee Chairman Alan Wilson said he wanted more assurance that the housing proposed in this project remains affordable.

“We definitely need more affordable housing,” Commissioner Shari Partin said.

Though Partin said she approved of Saint Vincent de Paul’s effort to provide unsubsidized housing for seniors, she also wanted a more complete pro forma on the project and wanted a chance to talk more with the project developer to make sure all needs are being met.

Saint Vincent’s Dan Austin was unavailable to meet the Commission on Tuesday. Jim Triplett of Triplett Construction attended in Austin’s stead, but recommended questions be directed to Saint Vincent’s general manager.

The entire project is expected to cost nearly $14 million.

The design is modular with all residential units being built to LEED energy efficiency standards. LEED qualification opens avenues for funding and saves on energy expenses over time, Triplett said.

A U.S. Census report from 2008 found 4,000 Juneau households spent more than 30 percent of their income on household costs.

Marlow said she was concerned that the project did not have access to street lights, sidewalks and other public services.

“We don’t see schools or ready access to recreation areas,” Marlow said. “I would like to hear a response from the sponsor as to the access of these services at the site.”

Marlow said the CBJ Assembly tasked the Housing Commission with discussing the Home Run project before CBJ goes forward with proposed buildable lands developments in Peterson Creek and Switzer Creek.

At Tuesday’s meeting the Housing Commission also discussed its priorities. It plans to meet its affordable housing goal through targets to reach and maintain a 5 percent vacancy rate for all housing types and to develop housing affordable for families in the 80 percent to 120 percent of HUD’s Median Family Income level. Currently Juneau has a vacancy rate for all housing of 1.4 percent for owned homes and 3.2 percent for rentals, according to the Juneau Economic Development Council.

The Commission plans to deliver questions to the society and then revisit the matter in August.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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