City affordable housing panel offers solutions

Commission wants high-density zones near bus routes

Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Young professionals and middle-income families cannot afford to buy an average home in Juneau, members of the Juneau Affordable Housing Commission said Monday.

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They combine with two other population groups that the commission said can't afford to buy a house or pay the rents in the most expensive market in the state.

"They can afford $200,000," commission member Daniel Ungier said. Only 8 percent of young professionals can afford to buy an average-priced $329,000 home, he said.

Young professionals and middle-income families join general renters and low-income families in the Juneau housing squeeze, the commission reported to the Juneau Assembly during Monday's Meeting of the Whole.

The year-old commission said those groups are at the heart of the declining under-40 population in the city.

The largest segment of the city's growing homeless population is the working family, Ungier said.

Rental housing is the biggest challenge, Ungier said. The waitlist for subsidized federal housing vouchers is 300 people.

The commission offered some solutions for the assembly to consider as they revamp the city's comprehensive plan and local land-use codes in the coming months.

One solution was to increase the housing stock within 400 yards of bus routes by rezoning those areas to high-density multi-use zones. The commission said average price-per-home drops $181,000 with density.

The commission also promoted community land trusts, the creation of affordable housing overlay districts, and then asked the assembly to consider fast-tracking the permitting process.

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl was curious how fast-tracking the permit process could save money. Committee member Alan Wilson said that costs drop because man-hours drop.

There needs to be a balance, assembly member Merrill Sanford said. Developers need enticement to build more affordable homes in Juneau and at the moment, people are buying $300,000 to $400,000 homes, he said.

"You cannot build affordable housing in this town without subsidy or high density," Sanford said.

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