Assembly hopefuls tout affordable housing

Methods range from diversifying economy to encouraging the development of condos

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

Juneau Assembly candidates say providing affordable housing is their major platform.

At a Friday forum organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Juneau, Assembly candidates shared their ideas on how to create more affordable housing with the city's various health and social services agencies.

At-large candidate David Summers, outgoing president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said creating affordable housing is his top priority. He would do so by encouraging mix-used zoning, expanding city sewer and streamlining the permitting process.

Summers said he would advocate diversifying Juneau's economy and creating more job opportunities so the city has the tax base to support various social services.

At-large candidate Bob Doll said many middle- and low-income families cannot afford to buy a house in Juneau.

"There are no $200,000 homes on the market," said Doll, former state ferry system director. "Most first-time home buyers don't have the $5,000-per-month income needed for a mortgage so I think the city needs to encourage multi-family housing, especially condos."

Doll said building a second bridge across Gastineau Channel would create additional housing, recreational and other developments on north Douglas Island.

Mara Early, the other at-large candidate, said the city should create transitional housing for young people returning to town. She also suggests that the city look into the possibility of putting health and social services on the ballot to ensure adequate funding for nonprofit agencies.

"We should put our money where our mouth is," Early said.

Early, chairwoman of the Juneau Coalition for Youth, said if young adults and students build positive relations with adults and learn from internship opportunities, they are less likely to use drugs and alcohol.

District 1 candidate Joan Cahill said the city should make the best use of vacant buildings downtown to create mixed-use housing.

Cahill said a good way for Juneau to solve many problems, whether in garbage disposal or service funding, is to work with other Southeast Alaska communities.

"If Juneau is too small, we should reach out," said Cahill, chairwoman of the Juneau Clean Air Coalition. The organization succeeded in pushing the Assembly to ban smoking in all bars in 2008.

District 1 incumbent Merrill Sanford said to make housing more affordable, he has been pushing sewer infill and promoting housing density increases during his three years on the Assembly.

Sanford said a way to ensure adequate funding for social services is to increase tobacco and alcohol taxes and use that money for problems related to tobacco and alcohol.

District 2 candidate Andrew Green said the city should support Tlingit & Haida Regional Housing Authority in building more housing for working families. Green also cautioned that the city shouldn't over-regulate the permitting process to deter developers.

Green said the city should diversify its economy to enlarge the city's tax base.

"I see taxation as a necessary burden to our community to support essential services, but we cannot encourage business growth and keep our families in town with a high tax burden," said Green, port manager of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska.

District 2 candidate Jonathan Anderson, who couldn't make it to the Friday forum, said later that the city should extend sewers and sell land in a controlled manner to put more affordable housing on the market.

Anderson, who was a member of the Juneau Human Rights Committee, said the city should give more support to its various citizen committees so they can help deal with issues such as racism.

At the forum, Jetta Whittaker, executive director of the Glory Hole homeless shelter, asked Summers and all of the candidates how they felt about the shelter's current location.

The shelter's location has been a campaign topic since Summers said in a television interview last month that the Glory Hole should move away from South Franklin Street because it contributes to problems such as the gathering of homeless and drunken people downtown.

Summers didn't answer the question directly on Friday, either in the forum or in an interview afterward. He said he supports the Glory Hole's mission and that he would never use eminent domain to force it to move.

All of the other candidates said the Glory Hole should decide its location.

Matt Felix, organizer of the forum, said the agencies not only wanted to know where the candidates stand on issues but also wanted to educate them to the importance of city grants.

"City money is critical because it is used to match state and federal money," said Felix, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Juneau.

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