The City Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Planning Commission members convened at a joint meeting Monday to discuss city priorities and to hear an update on the city’s community development department. Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

The City Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Planning Commission members convened at a joint meeting Monday to discuss city priorities and to hear an update on the city’s community development department. Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City officials discuss ‘carrot or stick’ approach to addressing housing issues

Assembly and Planning Commission talk priorities and housing crisis, no action taken

Members of the Juneau Assembly and Planning Commission are in agreement — something has to be done to address the city’s housing shortage.

The City Borough of Juneau’s Assembly and Planning Commission members convened at a joint meeting Monday to discuss city priorities and to hear an update on the city’s Community Development Department. No decisions were made at the meeting and members went back and forth on the type of solutions needed to break the cycle of housing shortage in Juneau.

Jill Maclean, the director of the CBJ Community Development Department, which handles building permits and land use — said the department has been “strapped” and has been trying to play catch up on work it would like to be doing like updating the city’s land code which has the potential to be changed to allow more housing opportunities.

“We can’t turn things around fast enough,” she said. “For the past four to five years we have been really feeling a build-up of decades of work that was frankly pushed off — do we get permits out the door or work on the land code? We simply don’t have the time.”

But, planning commission member Mandy Cole said the city needs to do more than just update the code to see change.

“The zoning code doesn’t work,” she said. “Changing the code is one tiny piece of it — there are tons of other pieces that might need to happen to become a Juneau that’s organized around the housing crisis.”

She said the city needs to look toward utilizing downtown space that she said holds potential to create more housing opportunities, and said that also comes with “tangible trade offs” the community needs to accept if they want to see change as well.

“We have to give big in order to make changes,” she said. “With the housing crisis at such a fever pitch, people might be willing to change to have a place to live that’s kind of livable.”

Mayor Beth Weldon said it’s important for the city to keep in mind if it wants more “carrots or sticks” as it tries to tackle the housing crisis in the future. Members of both the Assembly and the Planning Commission said they plan to discuss the matter more in future meetings.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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