Beginning in 2024, Alaska legislators and their staff will have use of newly remodeled apartments in a building across from the Alaska Capitol that was donated to the Legislature.
The new rental policy approved by the Legislative Council on Friday will allow legislators and staffers to rent studios starting at $1,100 a month or one-bedroom apartments for $1,600 a month. The tenants will be allowed to have dogs and cats in their apartments. It was a split vote, with some legislators not comfortable with putting pets in the building. Some legislators on the council do not support the entire concept of legislative housing owned by the Legislature.
Last December, the Legislative Council approved $6.6 million in renovations to the Assembly Apartments, as they were once known. That was a 20% increase over the $5.5 million estimated costs for renovations set in the summer of 2022 for the more than 30 apartments that have been created in the building, which was once apartments, then became lobbyist and other office, and now is returning to apartments. The building was given to the Legislature in 2021 by the Juneau Community Foundation, which also gave the Legislature $2 million for a renovation allowance.
With the renovations completed, legislators and staffers won’t be struggling just to find a place to live in the capital city. The proximity to the Capitol Building means tenants can get by without cars during the 90- to 120-day sessions. And the private sector can rest easy knowing that government housing has been provided to government workers through philanthropy.
Finding adequate housing in Juneau is a challenge at any time of year, but especially during late spring to fall, when the tourism season is in full swing. With housing now provided by the citizens of Alaska, the Legislature can soon more easily meet beyond the 90-day statutory limit for sessions, or the 120-day constitutional limit. Legislators won’t have to free up their apartments for incoming tourism workers.
In fact, by owning its own housing, the Legislature can have all the special sessions it wants, and collect all the per diem that goes with it. Legislators who don’t live in Juneau make $307 per diem. Special sessions typically are held without a full complement of legislative aides.
The rental policy gives priority to legislators based on their seniority, and remaining units would be made available to legislative staff, with those who have served the longest having priority.