The City and Borough of Juneau will consider whether to offer a property tax reduction to encourage housing development downtown. (File Photo)

The City and Borough of Juneau will consider whether to offer a property tax reduction to encourage housing development downtown. (File Photo)

Assembly to consider tax break to boost housing development

The proposal is a 12-year tax break on new construction with four or more units in a downtown area of Juneau.

A long-standing goal to develop more housing in Juneau’s downtown corridor may get a boost as city officials consider a tax break aimed at increasing residential development.

On Monday, the City and Borough of Juneau’s Land and Resources Committee met and agreed to send a tax-break proposal to the full assembly for a public hearing and a vote.

The proposal, which is modeled after a similar one in Anchorage, allows for a 12-year property tax break on new construction with four or more units in an area that runs from South Franklin Street, up Fifth Street and includes the Willoughby District.

If enacted, people with eligible housing developments in the area would only pay property taxes based on the mandatory school contribution of 2.65 mills instead of the standard 10.66 mills. The reduced taxes only apply to the housing portion of the structure and will be prorated based on square footage.

“I see this as the strongest first step we can take. This literally lays the groundwork,” said CBJ assembly member Wade Bryson during the meeting.

“This plan shows property owners and developers that Juneau means business. Housing is critical to keeping downtown active,” said Jill Maclean, Community Development director for CBJ.

“We need people here. This is a great program. I think it can really help downtown development. Tax abatement is not one size fits all. Nothing is. But we want to do everything we can to help the private sector,” she said.

The proposed downtown tax break is similar to an existing one that encourages the development of assisted living facilities for senior citizens.

[Finance committee votes to hold line on property taxes]

Results in Anchorage

A similar tax incentive has been in place in Anchorage for two years.

So far, 59 new housing units have been added through the conversion of commercial space, new construction of mixed-use units and construction of condos and townhouses.

An additional 66 to 79 units are pending, with the COVID-19 pandemic halting progress.

Housing is a top priority

The tax abatement proposal is one of many strategies to encourage housing development in Juneau that are laid out in the Housing Action Plan, which the city adopted in late 2016.

“There’s been talk and discussion of adding units downtown for a very long time. Probably since the 1990s, said Scott Ciambor, CBJ’s chief housing officer, in a phone interview this week.

“The goal is to develop as many units as possible. It’s a really attractive section. We have the infrastructure to have a 24-hour vibrant area,” he added.

Ciambor said the housing action plan includes 66 specific strategies across nine categories with a goal of developing 1,980 housing units over the next 30 years.

“Turning renters into homeowners will have an important economic impact. Something that can help Juneau’s working families into homes can stabilize our community and our schools,” said Bryson.

Contact Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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