Affordable housing still planned for Juneau

Despite a failed partnership that paused plans for a new affordable senior housing complex in Juneau, things are moving forward once again. It’s just not how either party originally planned.

General Manager of St. Vincent de Paul Society Dan Austin said when Seattle-based GMD Development pulled out of plans to build a 41-unit complex, it threw a wrench in his 10-year planning process.

Neither party is admitting being the first to walk away from the project. Austin said it came down to the management of a thrift store on the development. He didn’t elaborate, except to say, “It’s a matter of how far we’re willing to go in bending our mission to ensure our partner’s goals are met as well.”

SVdP, a local nonprofit that offers temporary and emergency housing, says it has found a substitute developer to work with. The new developer is supposed to be traveling to Juneau from the Lower 48 to discuss the project. Austin said it was too early to reveal the developer’s name. The project site is still set to be built on land SVDP owns near its current low-income housing units on Teal Street, according to Austin.

GMD, though, has other plans. Project Manager Emily Breidenbach said GMD has eyed a substitute lot of land for the senior housing project, and several Juneau nonprofits have asked to help. She added it was too early in the process to say where the land GMD could buy is, or what nonprofits are on board to help. But she said all signs point to housing for moderate-income earning seniors in the near future.

“I think this is going to be a great project for Juneau,” Breidenbach said.

The housing projects by GMD and St. Vincent de Paul both rely heavily on the same $9,000,000 financial backing from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The then-functioning partnership was awarded approximately $900,000 in tax credits over 10 years to complete the project. Who still has those tax credit rights ultimately decides which project can move forward.

“The tax credits were awarded to the partnership, of which we are a member,” Austin said.

Alaska Housing Planning Manager Daniel Delfino said that isn’t completely how it works.

“The entity that came through our application process and submitted the paperwork, the one that spearheaded it was GMD Development,” Delfino said. “So to the extent that when the two parties moved apart from each other, the entity that would be surviving would be GMD Development because they originally came forward and qualified.”

Delfino said Alaska Housing hasn’t made their decision based on value or judgment of either entity; the goal is simply to see affordable housing in Juneau expand.

Austin said he doesn’t see it that way and he has requested an opinion by Attorney General’s office, although he said he couldn’t comment on the process or any results at this time.

Austin said his work with the homeless population in Juneau make it clear the growing homeless senior population needs this project to come through. In 10 years, Austin said he estimates almost half of all homeless people in Juneau will be seniors.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

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