Assembly to consider adding housing action proposal to comprehensive plan

The Juneau Assembly is one step closer to a housing plan for the city.

During its work session Monday evening, the assembly voted to create an ordinance that would add the city’s housing action plan to its comprehensive plan, but not without heavy disagreement among assembly members.

The comprehensive plan outlines the city’s goals and policies. Although the plan addresses housing, the housing action plan is a more detailed and expansive document with specific suggestions for how to implement the solutions.

The Affordable Housing Commission received $75,000 of city funding to draft the plan a few years ago, and worked with city officials and housing specialists to complete it.

Assembly member Norton Gregory formerly served on the Affordable Housing Commission when the plan was being developed and supported its adoption.

“I feel like it’s important that the CBJ take action, and one thing that we learned from this plan is that we have to make some changes on how we do business,” Gregory said, “and change is often times not easy, and I think that this plan will help guide us through that.”

Assembly member Loren Jones was conflicted about adopting the plan.

He said he recognized its significance, but there were some items that lacked clarification.

“There’s issues in here about whether or not a developer should do 20 (percent) or 30 percent of their development at low-income and then we’ll give them some kind of develop bonus but it doesn’t say what that develop bonus is,” he said.

All of the assembly members agreed the plan was a good step forward. But some members disagreed on whether it was the right step to take.

Assembly members Mary Becker and Debbie White worried that adopting the plan would make its recommendations binding.

Becker said she’d prefer something more flexible, like a resolution, which doesn’t carry as much weight.

“I don’t think it’s ready for that kind of firm interpretation and I could not vote for that,” Becker said. “I could vote for it as a resolution, but I don’t think it’s ready to be something you can’t do anything about — you just have to do whatever it says or whatever it’s interpreted to say.”

Assembly member Jesse Kiehl disagreed.

“You know, the comprehensive plan is explicit, it says it’s aspirational,” Kiehl said. “We are not, in fact, required to do each and every little thing in the comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan, among its implanting actions, at one point, says we’ll build a performing arts center. You’ll notice we have not yet appropriated 10-15 million bucks for a performing arts center.”

After more than an hour of discussion, the assembly voted 5-3 to draft an ordinance. If passed, it will adopt the housing action plan into the already existing comprehensive plan.

The ordinance will be introduced at the Nov. 21 assembly meeting.

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