The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix Log 

City scratches the surface on housing dilemmas

 


Seward city officials knew going into Monday’s work session on housing one of the points thrown on the table as a way to alleviate the city’s housing crunch would be the extension of the utility services. Unfortunately, the idea of extending the city’s public infrastructure to spur housing development isn’t a cheap option – nor, as City Assistant City Manager Ron Long informed the standing-room-only crowd in the Seward Community Library & Museum, is it an option the city controls.

“The math doesn’t work in public-held utilities,” Long said. “As a utility, we are only passing along the costs and don’t have the ability to put in the lines and recapture the revenue on the improvements when property is sold. That would put all of those currently connected to the utility at a disadvantage.”

According to Long, the installation of water and sewer service cost “rough, rough, rough, and again, I say rough” $250 per foot, including engineering fees. That cost – which could be substantial – limits the city’s ability to extend services to sites in which no development is – or might never develop. He did say housing projects being connected Special Assessment Districts could be created for areas of development that are looking to connect more than a single home to the system. Under that plan, the cost for adding utility service could be shared among multiple properties and be spread out over a 10-year time span.

Mayor Jean Bardarson also noted the importance of those attending the first work session to focus on the two different housing issues facing the community. On one hand, there is a pressing need for acceptable accommodations for summer employees, while there is also a serious need for long-term, transitional housing.

“The conversations we have had over the last couple of years has gone two different ways,” she said. “I think it is important for us to focus on what the specific needs are for both and then sit down and decide what we can do about them.”

The Seward City Council voted agreed, whole-heartedly. The council voted unanimously to hold a second housing workshop at 5 p.m. on June 12 at the library.

“The turnout and participation were incredible,” Long said. “We need to get everyone together and come up with some ideas that we can work on. I think it was a great meeting, but we have just scratched the surface.”

 

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