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October is National Community Planning Month, and why that matters

October 15, 2018 – News

Community planning affects daily life. Planning is about how people move around the community – from a new Pioneer Road to Capital Transit, from walking and biking to school and work, to waterways, sidewalks and crosswalks. Planning is about recreational opportunities in a community, like Project Playground, ballfields, swimming, skiing, hiking, and hunting. Planning is how people do business – from local shops and eateries to tourism and development. Planning is how people live in a community – from the Jackie Street Cottages to Trillium Landing, from downtown urban living to Mendenhall Valley and Lemon Creek subdivisions to remote cabins. Community planning is putting all these pieces together in a cohesive mix of housing, recreation, economic development, and infrastructure that provides opportunities for all ages and abilities.

Each year, the American Planning Association identifies a theme for National Community Planning Month to help communities across the country celebrate an aspect of planning. For 2018, it’s “Housing as Community Infrastructure.” A strong housing infrastructure ensures that residents have safe and affordable housing options and the opportunity to buy a home, providing them with a genuine stake in the community. Most of all, planning creates a community of lasting value, and housing serves as the critical foundation to building that community.

Community planning efforts over the years demonstrate that Juneau’s housing challenges are significant and long-standing. The 2013 Comprehensive Plan recommends developing a housing plan that strategizes methods to create and sustain quality neighborhoods by building affordable housing of varying types. One of the 10 initiatives of the 2014 Juneau Economic Development Plan is to “Promote Housing Affordability and Availability,” placing the development of a housing action plan as the first objective. In 2016, the Housing Action Plan was adopted, and includes a range of actions to address Juneau’s housing needs.

These plans are coming to fruition in many ways. Zoning regulations have been adopted that encourage development while easing the cost of construction, such as updating panhandle lots and allowing private shared access rather than building new public streets. A new subdivision type is underway called “alternative residential subdivisions” providing for small lot subdivisions that support development of Juneau’s more challenging landscape, while allowing for a mix of housing sizes ranging from tiny houses, cottage-size dwellings, and common walls to larger single-family and multi-family homes.

Community planning is housing infrastructure. The CBJ recognizes this fact and has created three housing programs – CBJ Homeowner Accessory Apartment Incentive Program, CBJ Mobile Home Loan Down Payment Assistance Program, and the Juneau Affordable Housing Fund. Learn more about these programs at beta.juneau.org/housing. CBJ has directly funded the Juneau Housing First Collaborative permanent supportive housing project to address affordability and social concerns. Also, further assisting people experiencing homelessness, CBJ operates a Cold Weather Emergency Shelter and is starting a small work program for patrons of Glory Hall. Land has also been made available for new subdivisions in Lemon Creek and Pederson Hill that will soon allow for more single-family and multi-family housing opportunities.

Community planning is what makes a place the place we choose to call home. CBJ’s Community Development Department is able to accomplish the planning goals of the community through strong and vocal public engagement; community partnerships, both private and nonprofit; and partnerships within CBJ, including with volunteer boards and commissions. City staff and volunteer Planning Commissioners are always searching for rules and development that best serve the community. Community planning is what makes Juneau “not just anywhere” and works best when the community is involved and participates in these issues.

(Photo courtesy of Quantum Property Management)