The Sitka Assembly voted Tuesday night to allow float homes in Sitka’s harbors. It was one of two pilot projects on the assembly’s agenda aimed at increasing affordable housing.

The proposal, from the Port and Harbors commission, would allow two float houses in ANB Harbor, in space formerly taken up by unoccupied skiff slips.

City administrator Mark Gorman said one of the city’s motivations in authorizing float homes is the need for less expensive housing in Sitka.

“Our estimate on the part of staff is to get into one of these float houses would be probably, entry-level would be probably about $150,000,” he said.

The float home ordinance requires a second reading to become law.

In another effort to jump-start affordable housing, the assembly voted to grant a piece of city land to the Sitka Community Development Corporation. The SCDC plans to build a single home on the site, the first in what it hopes will become a community land trust. Land trusts aim to keep housing affordable by having a nonprofit retain ownership of the land. Homeowners buy only the house, and in return for the cheaper up-front cost, they agree to limits on the resale price.

Mt. Edgecumbe High School teacher Steven Courtright spoke in favor of the proposal, saying that without more affordable housing, families like his won’t last long in Sitka.

“I am a husband and a father, I have a family of four, and we’re trying to make it on a single income, primarily. And it’s really tough,” Courtright said. “Sitka is not the kind of place that we’ll be able to stick around much longer, unless things change.”

“We want to be able to stay here, and I know that’s true of a lot of other young families,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction. It’s not nearly a large enough step. But it’s a good first step.”

The assembly voted in favor of the proposal 4 to 1, with members Ben Miyasato, Aaron Swanson, Matt Hunter, and Phyllis Hackett voting yes. Assembly member Pete Esquiro voted no; he has said he is uncomfortable giving away city land. Mayor Mim McConnell is the Executive Director of the SCDC. She recused herself from the vote.


Also on the agenda Tuesday night: baseball. Mayor Mim McConnell welcomed Sitka High School’s state championship baseball team to the front of the assembly chamber.The team beat South Anchorage on Saturday, during the first-ever state baseball tournament held in Sitka — in fact, the first championship tournament held in Southeast Alaska.

Coach Ed Conway stepped up to the mic to thank the city for it’s support over the years. Then, he spoke to the community at large.

Conway: You know, I knew it was going to happen, coming into this, I’ve always said we’ve got the best baseball fans in the state. I knew it going in, and a whole lot of other people around the state realize it right now. That was just a phenomenal turn-out by our community, and it doesn’t happen like this in other towns. You go to Anchorage and that tournament would have just a few people from each team, it wouldn’t be a big deal. In Sitka here, our baseball community really turns out, and people just love the kids and love to support them, and we just want to thank everybody for turning out  like that, and thank the city for all the support we get.

This was Conway’s last season coaching baseball. He’s retiring this year.

You can find more coverage of the Sitka Assembly here.