The borough assembly has unanimously approved a letter of support for Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center to build a 12-unit apartment at 110 Bartel Ave. The housing will be used by permanent hospital employees and traveling staff.
The letter will be included as part of a proposal being sent to a committee at Providence Health’s headquarters in Washington state, according to hospital Administrator Karl Hertz.
In the letter of support, the borough states that workforce housing has been identified as “one of the barriers Kodiak employers face when recruiting and retaining employees.”
“Private industry has been unable to meet current housing demands, forcing employees to either pay high lease rates, find roommates, or live in sub-optimal housing,” the letter states. “In some cases, newly hired employees later turn down their offer citing their inability to find housing on the island.”
Providence already owns the land on which the property will be built. It is also zoned for commercial use, which allows for the construction of multifamily buildings, such as apartments.
“Providence has been having a problem getting housing for people coming in and new hires while they look for housing or those who come in temporarily,” said Borough Mayor Bill Roberts.
The letter of support, Roberts said, serves as an endorsement only and wouldn’t waive the normal building considerations other businesses face, such as having to go through the borough’s planning and zoning commission and obtaining the proper permits.
“This letter is not to show support for them to do anything with their land but to support them getting the funding to build this,” Roberts said. “I don’t see a downside to this.”
In August, Hertz provided the borough with a snapshot of the hospital’s future goals, including tentative plans to build an apartment complex. At the time, he said Providence was leasing 34 apartments or houses for staff, which he knew placed a strain on the local housing market.
Assembly members agreed, noting the need for workforce housing.
“I appreciate Providence asking for this letter of support and the insight and foresight into the thought that there isn’t a lot of affordable housing in the community,” said Assembly Member Geoff Smith. “I know our larger employers are having a difficult time retaining or obtaining staff because of that.”
Assembly Member Aimee Williams said the need was great.
“I’m thankful that Providence has the resources to get something done,” Williams said. “I know this won’t meet all their needs, but I’m happy to see that this gets off on the right foot.”
Assembly Member Joe Delgado said that coming from Ouzinkie, which has its own housing concerns, he was surprised to see Kodiak had the same issue.
Assembly Member James Turner, who serves as plant manager for OBI Seafoods, said he is also aware of overall housing concerns. His employer leases 27 apartments on the island and will be looking for 20 more next year.
The Providence project still will need to be reviewed by a Providence Health committee in Washington to determine funding, according to Hertz. No timeline or cost estimate has been determined.