When it comes to encouraging affordable housing in Sequim, the spirit is willing but the wallet is weak.
A two-hour "brainstorming session" held Aug. 19 at the Guy Cole Convention Center drew 25 people to discuss how to create affordable housing.
The session generated a lot of ideas and even began to build enthusiasm for creating affordable housing, but a lack of sources to fund the ideas dampened the mood.
Councilor Bill Huizinga told the council at its Aug. 24 meeting that it was a
"really good brainstorming session."
Sequim Planning Director Dennis Lefevre began the session by telling the crowd the city created affordable housing incentives two years ago but they didn't produce affordable housing.
So they decided to try "inclusionary zoning" - encouraging or requiring a given amount of affordable housing in a new development - and had consultant Tom Beckwith conduct a needs assessment, which was completed in April.
Now they want to develop an "action plan" for how to achieve affordable housing, he said.
Beckwith said encouraging affordable housing requires multiple tools or "more than one bullet in the gun."
"The purpose today is not to get into details," he said.
Beckwith passed out two handouts, one
that analyzed projected costs for affordable housing options such as density off-sets or land-lease offsets, another that showed examples of specific projects in other cities.
Then the 25 people split into two groups led by Beckwith and Steve Price to discuss seven approaches for creating affordable housing: attached dwelling units ("mother-in-law apartments"), small lots and cottage houses, mixed use in-fill, asking developers for proposals, "kit houses," inclusionary zoning and land trusts.
Some of the challenges identified included high utility hook-up fees for the attached dwelling units, city code changes that would be necessary for cottage houses and height restrictions for creating in-fill.
Others were a need for "community education" about what affordable housing means and the political will to get it built.
The consultants also heard that inclusionary zoning requires incentives for developers such as fee waivers and that making it optional doesn't work.
But the biggest obstacle identified was
funding since local governments have tight budgets and approaches such the city of
Seattle's housing levy wouldn't work here, the consultants were told.
Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@
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