City to review public input, rework housing strategy | City Corner

By Shane Hope | Oct 23, 2018

The current draft housing strategy for the City of Edmonds has been the subject of great interest and debate within our community.

Some people want the City to do a lot more to meet housing needs. Some want the City to do nothing. And some people are in-between. We greatly value all the public input that has been expressed.

As we review the various perspectives, we are taking a pause to thoughtfully reflect on what people have said and to develop a revised draft strategy for consideration.

Development of the draft housing strategy has been underway since 2017. Its purpose is to identify things the City could do to provide opportunities for more housing choices, recognizing different needs and income levels and being even more environmentally friendly.

What will be different about a revised strategy?

Most importantly, it will be informed by the feedback we have heard from the community. In addition, a revised strategy will recognize lessons learned from other cities' experiences. We don't want to repeat unsuccessful initiatives that have already been tried in other cities.

So far, we have heard opinions and suggestions from many individual residents, as well as a task force (comprised mainly of housing professionals in our area), the Planning Board (comprised entirely of Edmonds citizens), and others.

Feedback has come partly through community meetings, such as an open house, a workshop, and a public hearing by the Planning Board, and also through a variety of written and oral comments.

Questions have arisen, too.

What is a housing strategy and why are we doing it? Do we have enough types of housing in Edmonds for today's diverse needs? What is the City's role in housing issues? Should we encourage or discourage housing that serves middle or low-income people?

What, if any, taxpayer cost would come from housing changes? We are aware that, while some people support and others oppose the current draft housing strategy, there is also confusion about what the draft strategy actually says and does.

As much as possible, questions should not be left hanging. Public knowledge and involvement is critical.

As we work to incorporate the feedback that has come forward, we will also be preparing a schedule to gather even more public input on a revised strategy. All of this information will be publicly shared and also posted on the City website at edmondshousingstrategy.org.

Our goal is to develop a new draft and hear what local people think about it during the remainder of 2018. After that, other adjustments can be made based on that input and the newest draft can be brought forward in the first quarter of 2019 for review by the City Council, as well as more public input.

It's important to note that completion or adoption of a housing strategy is not the end of the story.

Nothing in any version of a housing strategy would happen automatically. Once adopted, the housing strategy will be just that, a strategy – not mandates. Implementation of such a strategy will still require consideration and enactment of specific measures, each of which is subject to further analysis, public review, and City Council action.

For example, one of the draft recommendations so far has been to allow more options for accessory dwellings (such as a small cottage in the backyard of a larger home). But even adopting a strategy with this recommendation would not mean that such dwellings could immediately start getting built.

A separate code amendment process, with public input, would need to occur. Code amendments involve months of work, including developing draft requirements for size, design and parking, then having multiple public meetings by both the Planning Board and the City Council.

Ultimately, any decision about amending the code is still up to the Council, which is mindful of community needs and concerns.

The most recent draft housing strategy – still to be revised – is from July. It is on the City website, along with a summary of the most recent workshop (from Aug. 27) and other information. More items will be added. At this time, we are in a reset mode, recognizing that more work is needed.

Anyone who wants to be on our housing email list can sign up by emailing diane.cunningham@edmondswa.gov.

We look forward to working with the citizens of our community to plan for the next two decades and help ensure Edmonds remains a great place to live.

Shane Hope is City of Edmonds Development Services director.

 

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