City to develop affordable housing strategy by 2019


Last updated 5/12/2016 at Noon

The city of Edmonds is facing a housing challenge: How will it accommodate nearly 6,000 new residents by 2035 in an area that is 96 percent built out?

A policy analyst from the Alliance for Housing Affordability met with the Edmonds City Council on May 3 to begin the process for creating a citywide housing strategy by 2019.

Kristina Gallant of AHA said the issue of housing is complex and interwoven with many other aspects of a city, including transportation, economic development and employment.

The alliance, whose members include 13 Snohomish County cities, Snohomish County and the Housing Authority of Snohomish County, was created in 2013 to provide a venue for Snohomish County jurisdictions to learn about, understand and address the area’s housing challenges.

Gallant worked with city staff to develop a housing profile in 2015 for Edmonds and said creating affordable housing opportunities is essential.

According to AHA, for housing to be “affordable,” a household should not spend more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing, which includes all housing-related costs – rent, mortgage payments, utilities, etc.

Households that spend more than 30 percent are considered “cost burdened.” The housing profile showed about 38 percent of households in Edmonds are considered to be cost burdened.

According to the profile, Edmonds has a population of 39,950, which includes 17,396 households. Of those, 6,672 households are spending too much on housing costs.

Housing costs are rising, she said, while household incomes are dropping.

“One of the big issues, of course, is that salaries are stagnant,” Councilmember Tom Mesaros said. “Salaries aren’t rising, but housing costs are rising. That just squeezes those that are looking for a place to live, just squeezes them terribly.

“I think one of the challenges we have to face here in Edmonds is how do we come up with some solutions, where we’re not building housing, but how can we set the stage so it becomes easier for people who want to meet the challenge to be able to do so.”

Gallant said cities could reevaluate existing codes to see where it could be made “easier” for developers and property owners to offer affordable housing through waivers and subsidies.

She said cities should create a foundation for housing strategies that includes minimizing development barriers and matching housing to needs.

“At that basic level, make sure you have the foundation,” Gallant said. “It won’t make housing affordability happen by itself, but market affordability won’t happen without it.”

Another issue is land. According to the city’s comprehensive plan, about 96.4 percent of its land is developed.

“One of the things that I think has really become apparent for us is that finding land is probably the No. 1 issue,” Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said.

She noted that other cities have had luck with churches or other agencies donating land, and Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said the city should take a closer look at vacant areas around Highway 99.


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