It's unanimous - affordable housing a growing problem

Summit participants address cost of living crisis in Juneau area

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2006

A solution to Juneau's affordable housing crisis might be a distant dream, but on Saturday, a roomful of the city's leaders pledged their commitment to finding one.

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Developers, lawmakers, planning officials, nonprofit workers, volunteers and others gathered at Centennial Hall for a Juneau Affordable Housing Summit to discuss how best to address the crisis.

The seven-hour workshop drew roughly 60 residents who spent the day trying to hammer out details for a possible leadership structure and pinpoint long-term and short-term goals.

It was the culmination of a six-month volunteer effort by the Affordable Housing Coalition, which had been charged with researching the topic by Mayor Bruce Botelho.

For organizer Linda Thomas, the most successful part of the workshop took place near the end, when all present voted to approve a resolution that committed the group to encouraging the city towards finding solutions.

"I want to emphasize that the resolution was unanimous. That is very unusual in this community," she said.

Mayor Botelho said the Assembly could adopt a similar ordinance - and ultimately will want to - but it must go through proper government channels. This includes public hearings and input from a series of committees.

Erin Walker-Tolles, an administrator with Housing First and a Coalition member, said that city government must step in and help out.

Some attendees were looking to nail down a more concrete solution.

LaVonne Garbey of the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority said, "It didn't quite meet expectations, but at least we've got the groundwork and a direction."

Planning Commissioner Linda Snow was pleased that the issue was finally being discussed.

"It's more out in the open and we've got more input," she said.

Mayor Botelho has organized a session to meet at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Assembly Chambers to discuss best ways to establish leadership for a future affordable housing committee or advisory board.

The Committee of the Whole is slated to take steps on establishing a committee during a January session.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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