By Leigh Armstrong

The borough assembly has voted to allow larger “accessory housing,” separate housing units on the same lot as another home, hoping it might spur development of much needed housing in town.

“It may not be the ideal fix, but we need to make housing available and affordable for those who need it,” resident Jaime Bricker said at the Sept. 19 assembly meeting, where assembly members voted 5-1 in favor of the change. The change took effect immediately.

Under the previous ordinance, any accessory housing built in Skagway could be no larger than 600 square feet. 

Accessory housing, which allows for multiple residences on one lot, could be a small home or apartments that a property owner rents out. 

The push comes from the lack of housing in Skagway. Rocky Outcalt, owner of The Klondike Doughboy, said it’s a step in the right direction. 

“(Residents) won’t be living in boxcars, won’t be starting them on fire. They won’t be leaving toilet paper in the woods near their campsites,” Outcalt said. 

Assemblymember Steve Burnham, who voted against the increase in unit size, said the assembly should look at limiting the ground footprint of accessory housing to 600 square feet and encourage developers to build up to provide for larger units. He also said that the idea seemed counterintuitive based on assembly voting against the attaching two mobile structures with a breezeway, and that this seemed very similar.

Assemblymember Orion Hanson disagreed. “To say it can only be a certain footprint, you’re making something cookie-cutter that shouldn’t be cookie-cutter.” 

The amendment doesn’t change parts of the ordinance that limit accessory housing to occupying less than 50 percent of the lot. 

Hanson said allowing larger accessory housing units is part of Skagway’s overall plan to solve the housing shortage. The borough also is working on the rules for conditionally approving triplexes in the community.