Juneau Assembly considers property tax breaks for new downtown housing

Traffic flows along Egan Drive in downtown Juneau on May 2, 2018. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

A proposal is starting to move through Juneau’s assembly that would give big property tax breaks to new housing in parts of downtown Juneau. 

It’s one more tool in the city’s belt to help with a perennial goal to make housing more affordable in the Capital City. 

The draft proposal is for new developments of at least four new residential units. And it only applies to the parts of downtown roughly from South Franklin Street up to Fifth Street, plus the Willoughby District.

Property owners would effectively pay about a quarter of the current property tax rate, 2.65 mills instead of 10.66, on the housing portion of new development, prorated by square footage. The tax break would expire after 12 years. 

In a memo, city staff said only three new housing units have been developed in the area over the last five years. 

“It will show to the private sector and not just local property owners but hopefully outside developers, too, if they’re interested, that Juneau means business,” said Jill Maclean, who leads the city’s Community Development Department. “And the housing, we know is critical to keeping downtown active, and keeping people here, keeping the (Legislature) here — we need them.”

She discussed the proposal with the Juneau Assembly Lands and Resources Committee on Monday. 

Chief Housing Officer Scott Ciambor said it could take several years for the tax break, which they’re calling “downtown tax abatement,” to lead to new housing. But it could get the ball rolling. 

“Downtown tax abatement now gets all of the property owners to take a second look at their own properties for development of housing. Does it fit? Could they do something?” Ciambor said. 

The tax break is very similar to an existing one for assisted living for senior citizens. That tax break helped the 49-unit Trillium Landing complex in the Mendenhall Valley open in 2017. 

The committee sent the proposal to the full Assembly for introduction. A public hearing and vote would follow at a later meeting.

Jeremy Hsieh

Local News Reporter, KTOO

I dig into questions about the forces and institutions that shape Juneau, big and small, delightful and outrageous. What stirs you up about how Juneau is built and how the city works?

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