City tries new approach to housing crisis

Juneau’s assembly housing task force kicked off a new program that taps expertise of local developers, lenders, land owners and Realtors to find the roots of Juneau’s housing shortage.

“We have a housing crisis,” Assembly Member Mary Becker said Friday at a City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Housing Task Force meeting. Which is why these stakeholders are being brought together. Juneau has a demand for homes and a housing industry that can handle supplying that demand.

“We have the people to do this,” Becker said. “We just have what-ever it is that is keeping them from doing it. And it may be something we can’t do a single thing about.”

Becker said task force plans to create four teams to tackle each industry separately. The teams will then present white papers with their findings to the assembly.

Becker leads the team that will work with developers. She said the task force's new approach is simpler and less costly than previous proposals.

The task force plans to ask each of the industries tied to housing two basic questions: What are the challenges to provide housing in all prices ranges throughout the community? What strategies can the assembly employ to alleviate the situation?

Meetings with Juneau’s housing industry leaders will not be public. However, meetings are open to all operators in each specific housing industry.

Each of the four industry groups will present some sort of report. Two of the white papers are expected to be presented to the Assembly Committee of the Whole and the public on Jan. 14, 2013. However, Becker said housing industry leaders may also provide off the record information.

Becker said the assembly’s housing task force is tackling one facet of Juneau’s modern problems.

“This just seemed like a place to start,” Becker said. “We need houses because we have people right now who are not housed. But truly we need jobs too.”

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

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