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Task force talks Home Run, affordable housing fund

Posted: April 2, 2013 - 7:35pm  |  Updated: April 2, 2013 - 11:02pm

The Affordable Housing Task Force was tasked by the city to find ways to promote the development of affordable housing in Juneau. Sounds easy enough. Yet Juneau’s housing market is tighter than the fence at an alligator farm and has been for some time. With few homes on the market, Juneau’s home prices and rental costs remain high.

What is the task force to do? Support housing development.

At its regular meeting Tuesday night the City and Borough of Juneau task force agreed to send a letter to the Assembly in support of the Home Run senior housing project. Saint Vincent de Paul is the developer of the project. The project aims to provide handicapped-accessible housing to seniors for about $500 per month.

However, the task force was quick to point out that it did not support one housing development over another.

“The [task force] recognizes that there are other applications and we understand the financing structure,” according to draft language. “It is a very competitive situation.”

The task force also recommended the city streamline a permitting system the group referred to as “overly stringent.”

“We are at some sort of tipping point,” Wayne Coogan of Coogan Construction LLC said of his fellow developers. “It is at the point where people are giving up.”

1,200 of Juneau’s renters bring in less than $35,000 a year and are considered rent burdened.

The task force also discussed the $477,000 Affordable Housing Fund. The fund began in July 2010, funded at $400,000.

Applicants can procure a loan valued up to $150,000, or half a project’s total cost.

Task force members commented that funds should go to more and smaller projects, and that more money should go to individuals.

The fund’s purpose centers on creating and preserving affordable housing, keeping costs down so families are not unduly burdened by housing costs. However, there was still some disagreement among members as to the proper use of the fund. Wayne Coogan of Coogan Construction LLC said the fund was too small to help much.

“To make it meaningful to you have to put a couple extra zeros next to it,” Coogan said.

The fund prioritizes affordable housing development, specifically the one-bedroom rental units for low-income residents. Currently, studies indicate Juneau’s housing market has a vacancy rate well below what is deemed healthy for this area and a pent up housing demand of 343 units.

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

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