Juneau housing developers call for regulatory reform, land

A panel of Juneau housing developers presented the city a list ways it can kickstart growth in the community’s tight housing market.

“What we perceive as a housing crisis,” Wayne Coogan of Coogan Construction LLC said during testimony Monday. “Juneau’s housing shortage is a fact.”

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly recognized housing as one of Juneau’s major needs. As such it formed a housing ad hoc committee to take on this challenge.

Recently the committee decided to have local housing industry groups — developers, Realtors, land owners and lenders — meet and present their recommendations to the assembly by white paper and testimony.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night a group of Juneau’s developers, lead by Coogan, gave their views on the city’s role in helping and hindering growth in the housing industry.

The group also presented the COW a report with 18 recommendations. These include elimination of the need for the city review of building plans, remove the need for a 15-foot fence between zero-lot-line structures, replace formula-driven parking requirements with actual parking load of the development, cut permit fees, simplify variances and permits and incentivize green spaces though tax exemption.

Although this list of 18 recommendations covered a wide spectrum of developers needs, To meet housing demand, Coogan narrowed the key requests to two.

“Regulation is the number one thing that the city has control over,” Coogan said. “The other is its vast land holdings. Those two things you have control over, two big things.”

Juneau’s housing market saw around 90 housing starts between 2011 and 2012.

Juneau’s housing market was much more vital in the past than it is today, Coogan said. By the late 1980s housing development started drying up.

Now open market apartment construction has come to a virtual standstill, Coogan said. Developers can not provide housing at a price buyers can afford, he said.

“Not that industry can’t build homes,” Coogan said. “It is the cost has gone beyond the reach of buyers.”

Mayor Merrill Sanford said some of the blame falls on CBJ’s elected officials Maybe they didn’t realize the effect of their actions as the time, he said.

“But it is the Assembly that has acted, little pieces at a time, that has put our staff in a box,” Sanford said. “We need to make it work better for our developers to get to the housing level that we need.”

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

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