Juneau’s housing market sees influx of rentals

By January 20, 2014Economy, Local Government
One-bedroom units in River Park Apartments in Lemon Creek are renting at $1,050 a month. (Photo courtesy of Summit Reality)

One-bedroom units in River Park Apartments in Lemon Creek are renting at $1,050 a month. (Photo courtesy of Summit Reality)

More than 40 new rental units are becoming available in the capital city, and more are on the way. A developer fears Juneau may become overbuilt, but a city official says that’s far from happening.

Coogan Construction is about to release 24 West Juneau apartments onto the housing market. “They’re all two-bedroom, 1000-square feet, washer and dryer in the units. Kind of like condos,” says Island Hills owner Wayne Coogan. He isn’t sure what rent will be and hasn’t started advertising, but the calls are still coming in. “There’s all kinds of people that are trying to rent them. I mean people see it getting built. There’s people reserving, trying to reserve places right now,” he says.

Property manager Marna McGonegal is seeing the same level of interest for the new 23-unit River Park Apartments in Lemon Creek:

“I’m having a problem keeping up with the demand, trying to get back to everybody and make sure I’ve got everybody taken care of.”

McGonegal started advertising in mid-December and nine apartments are already taken. With one-bedroom units going for $1050 a month, McGonegal doesn’t anticipate having trouble filling the rest. “There has been a high demand for the one-bedrooms. It’s not been sporadic at all. I’ve had regular responses every time I’ve renewed my Craigslist add,” she says.

River Park Apartments developer Bill Heumann says the 23-apartment complex wasn’t even an idea until last spring when the market conditions seemed right, and he’s proud of the fact that it went from concept to occupancy in seven months. His next project is 16 waterfront condominiums in Auke Bay.

With other complexes nearing completion and beginning to rent, Heumann thinks Juneau’s housing need is starting to be met.

“From a developer’s standpoint, it’s time to start being more careful. I think we can find ourselves building too many units,” he says.

West Juneau's Island Hills under construction in January 2013. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Coogan)

West Juneau’s Island Hills under construction one year ago. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Coogan)

But Exit Reality property manager Wayne Bundy thinks it’s going to take a lot more apartments than Island Hills and River Park to make a real difference in Juneau’s tight rental market. “If we could dump another 200 units onto the market, you know 200 quality units, the market would ease up pricing-wise and availability,” Bundy says.

Hal Hart is not worried about Juneau becoming overbuilt. He’s the city and borough’s Community Development Director.

“I completely don’t think we have enough housing. We’re certainly not close to overbuilding the market right now,” Hart says.

He hopes the two apartment complexes will spur other housing projects and create more affordable options, “If we put more units on, that gives release to other areas of the market including less expensive housing opportunities, too. People would move around and move up if there’s more to choose from.”

While growth in the market is key, Hart says location is also important. Ideally he’d like to see growth downtown to help fulfill the needs of the legislature, the tourism industry, as well Juneau’s year-round population, but the rentals opening up now are in good locations. “Bill Heumann is out in Lemon creek. It’s centrally located, which has its good points because there’s bus service either way or the drive time isn’t so long,” Hart explains. “The West Juneau – the Island Hills – is centrally located. We really like that. It’s taken a while for it to come on, but that’s within biking distance or walking distance of the downtown.”

Hart says other important rental unit factors are quality and safety, as well as affordability, which continues to be a priority of the Juneau assembly.

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