Nome Common Council considers new housing ordinances

Nome Common Council

Three new ordinances focused on the construction of residential space in Nome were introduced at the May 9 Nome Common Council meeting.

Two of the new ordinances provide temporary exemptions from property tax for some residential construction, and the third provides an exemption from permit fees for certain residential construction projects.

The council’s newest member, Scot Henderson, sponsored the ordinances. He knows housing is a major issue in Nome, and it’s one of the main reasons he ran for a seat on the council last year.

“The community needs a tremendous amount of new housing to be constructed. Unfortunately, the economic conditions currently are not encouraging the construction of it, so I’m trying to utilize ordinances to decrease some of those costs and help spur some construction,” Henderson said.

The idea is to make it easier for housing to be profitable.

“One of the primary factors is the extraordinarily high cost to construct new housing in Nome, and the inability to recover those construction costs without charging very high rents,” Henderson said.

The new ordinances are not geared only towards private developers constructing brand-new housing facilities. They also mention rehabilitating deteriorated structures, and the ordinances are designed so that individual property owners can take advantage of them too.

“If somebody has a warehouse, or maybe somebody has an older single-family home that needs a lot of work, they might say, ‘You know what, with these housing incentives, maybe I’ll convert that old warehouse or convert that older single-family home into a duplex or a triplex and be able to generate some additional income.’ Without the incentives, that may not make financial sense, but coupled with the tax exemptions, and coupled with the permit fee waivers and utility credits, maybe it does make financial sense.” Henderson said.

Nome is already facing a housing shortage, and with major projects like the Port of Nome Expansion Project and Graphite One in the works, that shortage has the potential to get much worse very quickly, Henderson pointed out. The package of new ordinances “isn’t a fix-all solution, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Henderson said.

Henderson encouraged community members to weigh in with their own perspectives at Common Council meetings.

“The more community discussion that we have about this problem, the more solutions we’ll get. And hopefully we will start to fix it,” Henderson said.

In other business, the council authorized the city to apply for two grants to fund the construction of solid waste disposal facilities to support the port expansion. One of the grants would come from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the other from the Denali Commission. The council also voted to reappoint Russell Rowe to his seat on the Nome Port Commission.

The Nome Common Council will further discuss the new ordinances at a work session on May 17 at 5:30 p.m. The council will vote on whether to pass the ordinances at its next regular meeting on May 23 at 7 p.m.

Image at top: Council Member Scot Henderson (left) and Mayor John Handeland (right) at the Nome Common Council Meeting on May 9. Photo by Sean Milligan, KNOM (2022).