Looking forward … affordable housing in Edmonds | Looking Forward

By Neil Tibbott and Stefan Carlson | Jan 22, 2015

Looking Forward is a new monthly column about decisions and developments going before City boards and the Edmonds City Council. It explores topics of interest to long time residents and the next generation. Co-Authors Neil Tibbott and Stefan Carlson are in distinctly different life stages, but have a common interest in the future of Edmonds. – Ed.

When you think of housing in Edmonds, where would you encourage someone to look for affordable places to live in our city?

This is an important question as we look forward to the kinds of housing options that will be available in the future.

Affordable housing means places for seniors to retire, for children to live close to parents, for families to stay together, for workers to live close to their employment and so much more.

As the City of Edmonds develops its Comprehensive Plan in this current cycle, affordable housing will be one of the topics addressed in various sections of the plan.

In a previous article, we discussed the kinds of housing that currently exists in Edmonds and how much more will be needed.

The article, “The Future of Housing in Edmonds,” can be found here:

http://edmondsbeacon.villagesoup.com/p/the-future-of-housing-in-edmonds-guest-view/1277172 .

Now that we’re looking forward to the future of housing with the plan, it’s important to consider the ways that land use effects affordability in our city.

In particular, zoning laws govern where certain kinds of developments can happen whether they are single family residences, multifamily or commercial.

Zoning regulations also describe the relationships between different kinds of developments and their density.

For example, the Westgate Plan recently sent to the City Council for consideration had very specific boundaries outlining where different kinds of housing begin and end, as well as the kinds of mixed uses permitted inside the boundaries.

In broad strokes, affordable housing can be accomplished through higher densities, subsidies, loan programs and rent controls.

Each of these options has their uses, but the one the City of Edmonds can most directly affect is density.

Again, this would be accomplished through land uses permitted by the Comprehensive Plan.

But maybe we even need to ask the question, why does the city need to plan for affordable options in the city?

Since 1993 Washington state policy has required cities to develop a housing plan that provides both adequate and affordable housing for its population.

There are specific measures for the definition of affordable, but a simple way to describe it is to say that housing costs should not require more than 30 percent of a household income.

The Affordable Housing Profile provided to the City can be found here: http://agenda.ci.edmonds.wa.us/agenda_publish.cfm?mt=ALL&get_month=9&get_year=2014&dsp=agm&seq=7122&rev=0&ag=1033&ln=24605&nseq=7125&nrev=0&pseq=&prev=#

The following chart from the Housing Profile illustrates a range of housing options available in Edmonds.

The study was completed in 2013 and is likely our most up to date look.

The conclusion of the housing study suggests that more affordable housing is needed in Edmonds in the coming years.

So, looking forward, what will we see proposed in the Comprehensive Plan?

You can expect to see more areas of the city zoned for multi-use developments, especially along Highway 99.

You can also expect to see proposals to permit higher densities in various parts of the city.

As always, the public will be invited to provide their input to the Planning Board.

There will be opportunities to comment on the Comprehensive Plan when it finally reaches the City Council, perhaps as early as June this year.

For anyone wanting to get an early look at what various city boards and commissions are considering, there will be an open house on Feb. 25 at the City Building.




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