Assembly selects housing commission

In first act, 9-person group recommends 'cottage' construction

Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Juneau Assembly has selected a nine-person commission to lead the effort in finding solutions for the lack of affordable housing in Juneau.

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At a meeting Thursday evening, the Juneau Affordable Housing Commission elected officers and made a recommendation affecting the number one issue of last year's city election.

In its first official action, the commission endorsed the construction of "cottage housing" in the community, said Cathy Munoz, who was selected as the body's chairperson. If adopted by the Assembly, it would allow for smaller homes of up to 1,000 square feet with an additional 300 square-foot garage to be built.

"It allows for a range of different type of housing in the community," Munoz said. "It allows people the opportunity to own their own home."

Steve Sorensen has been elected as vice chair of the commission. Honey Bee Anderson, Lavonne Garvey, Greg Pease, Tamara Rowcroft, Justin Shearer, Erin Walker-Tolles and Alan Wilson are the remaining members of the group.

Affordable housing is one of the major issues facing the community and one the Assembly is ready to take on, Mayor Bruce Botelho said. The establishment of a commission was one of the main recommendations to come out of an affordable housing summit held on Dec. 2 that brought together the "main players" and local experts on the subject, he said.

"The Assembly is very committed to finding long-term strategies and finding solutions," Botelho said. "The commission is a major tool in that regard. It is a forum and a way to come together as a community."

The high cost of housing in the community is a roadblock for many wishing to own their own home, Munoz said.

"It's a real big issue in that home prices have gotten to a point where many first-time buyers are having a difficult time getting into the market," she said.

The commission, which does not have the authority to implement change to city codes, will work on recommendations to bring to the Assembly for possible adjustments, Munoz said.

"The first thing we're going to do is look at Title 49, which is the land use code, to increase opportunities for new building," she said.

The commission has been established for a three-year period, which can be extended if the Assembly wishes, Botelho said.

The commission will look at innovative ways of providing more affordable housing in the community, including looking at the city's inventory of land and seeing if some should be put into the private sector or under the authority of local nonprofit agencies, Munoz said.

"We're interested in land that is within the urban service boundary, where services are already available," particularly in areas connected to city sewer, near the bus line and in close proximity to schools, she said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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