Assembly addresses Juneau’s growing housing problem

By July 20, 2015 Stories
The Juneau Assembly on Monday. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly on Monday. (Photo by Elizabeth Jenkins/KTOO)

Much of the conversation at Monday’s Juneau Assembly meeting centered on housing and how Juneau could grow as a city.

The Assembly approved $72,000 for a grant incentive program which gives homeowners cash to construct accessory apartments. Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl called the plan a “premature” use of limited funds.

“We haven’t heard from the public about what the recommendations are. We haven’t heard from the consultants about what the recommendations might even be and we’re using money quite frankly probably to incentivize things that are already, probably going to happen,” he said.

Kiehl said a housing action plan is already in process, further input is needed to make sure the funds are used wisely.

“An old saying is keep your powder dry. In this case, I think we need to keep the taxpayers’ cash dry,” he said.

In 2012, the Juneau Economic Development Council found the city needed hundreds of new units to improve the tight market for renters.

Assemblywoman Kate Troll said there is nothing in the housing action plan that suggests this is not a good move.

“The affordable housing commission is very engaged in this issue,   and they still feel very strongly in terms of trying to make a difference, a big difference on the ground for the smallest amount of money, this is a very worthwhile program,” she said.

Kiehl was the only Assembly member to vote no.

Later, zoning changes near mile 7 of Glacier Highway were discussed–a move some said could help with Juneau’s housing problem. The area is zoned for single-family homes. The ordinance would more than triple the density.

Dave Hanna testified it would “unfairly change the character of the neighborhood.”  Not fix Juneau’s housing problem.

“Now we’ve heard density is the answer to our housing problem here in Juneau but we also hear Juneau is sorely underserved in the single-family market. We really need more single-family homes here,” he said.

At an April meeting, the planning commission recommended denying the proposed rezone. The Assembly approved the ordinance with Assemblywoman Kate Troll and Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis voting no.

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