The light at the end of the housing crisis tunnel in Juneau might be getting a little brighter after the city agreed to enter negotiations that could lead to more affordable housing in the capital city.
On Monday night, the Assembly OK’d beginning talks with two separate entities, both of which requested property in the Pederson Hill area located past Brotherhood Bridge on Glacier Highway — currently owned by the city — to develop affordable housing on the property.
“Each of these proposals could result in a lot of housing,” said City Manager Rorie Watt.
The first motion OK’d the city to negotiate with Moline Investment Management, a private company that applied to the city with the proposal of purchasing city property just northwest of Karl Reishus Boulevard, which is adjacent to the Pederson Hill Phase 1 development. Watt said the land request by the company is for approximately 10 acres within a D10 zone — meaning it can hold up to 10 units per acre.
“There’s the potential for 50 to 100 housing units there — it’s a big deal,” Watt said.
If all goes to plan, as outlined in the request, the company would use the land to develop multi-family housing that uses tax credits so that the housing could be offered to residents at 60% area median income — the household income for the “middle” household in Juneau — and below for 15 or 30 years. However, before any of that would happen, it still needs to go through multiple planning steps with the city, and then rezoned and subdivided.
Charlie Moline, the founder and CEO of Moline Investment Management who was born and raised in Juneau, said he walked the property during the week of the Fourth of July and said he’s excited about the possible opportunity to utilize the land for housing. He said the agreement to negotiate on Monday night is just the start of a long process of planning that might not even turn into actualization.
“We’re excited for the opportunity but there’s still quite a few hurdles to get through,” Moline said. “It’s not a sure deal and we might start planning and it goes nowhere — hopefully not.”
Moline’s company is based in Missouri and he said he has built developments similar to what he plans to make in Juneau in the Lower 48. He said if the plan is OK’d, the development would focus on providing affordable multi-family housing, along with specifically designated units for families of coast guard workers in Juneau.
“There’s a real problem with securing housing for their families so we’d like to develop some housing that would be set aside specifically for families of the Coast Guard,” he said. “With my experience developing this product down south, I’m hoping to bring it back to Alaska.”
The second motion that passed OK’d the city to negotiate with Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority after a letter was sent to the CBJ Division of Lands and Resources manager Dan Bleidorn from Jacqueline Kus.een Pata, president and CEO of THRHA, that requested the Assembly consider a negotiated sale or for disposal of a 11.5 acres city property in the Phase 1 Pederson Hill subdivision — appraised by the city to be around $635,000 in value — for a less than fair market value or no cost.
“It’s still up for discussion, but quite frankly, the cost of that development is going to be quite high, and we will have to apply for numerous grants in order to be able to get to a place where that end result will be affordable to the end user,” Pata said.
She said “the goal” is to build affordable homes on the lands selling half to low-income tribal citizens and the other half to moderate-income Juneau residents.
If OK’d, the construction of the housing is not expected to break ground until 2024, and the construction of roads and utilities would need to be established first, which is expected to begin in 2023, according to the memo.
“I was pleased to see that the Assembly chose to support the beginning of this discussion,” Pata said. “This is definitely a crisis in Juneau and the housing authority just wants to be a good partner.”
Now that the Assembly chose to proceed with THRHA’s application, Watt will begin to draft a purchase and sales agreement and CBJ Municipal Attorney Robert Palmer will start drafting an ordinance for Assembly introduction and public hearing.
Watt said though this is just “the first step” in the process, he said it’s hopeful for the city to see multiple big projects possibly in the works and said “the more irons in the fire the better” in terms of future housing projects in Juneau.
“Any housing project takes quite a while — it’s never a straight path and it’s never fast,” Watt said. “We have a housing problem and each of these two projects seem like they could lead to housing and each of them or together could be a big deal for the city.”
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.