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Inclusionary zoning coming?

In order to bring affordable housing to Sequim, the city first tried to entice developers with incentives, but that didn’t work. Now they want to try a new tactic: mandating it.

“Our feeling is this is America and we’d like everyone to eventually live the American dream,” Councilman Bill Huizinga said. Huizinga also chairs the city’s Affordable Housing Committee.

In 2006, the city amended its planned unit development ordinance to provide incentives to developers who would include qualified affordable housing in their developments. The incentives included increasing density, while decreasing setbacks and open space. Nearly two years later, not one affordable unit has been created.

“Developers feel that it might affect their ability to sell the other properties,” city attorney Craig Ritchie offered during the March 24 city council meeting.

At that meeting, the council was presented a proposed plan to create inclusionary zoning — zoning that would mandate planned unit developments to include at least a percentage of affordable units.

Huizinga said that he believes the reason many developers don’t like to include affordable housing in their projects comes down to what he calls Not In My Backyard-ism, the idea that affordable housing is fine so long as it isn’t anywhere near an existing neighborhood. There are many prevailing misconceptions attached to affordable housing, including that in order to be affordable it must be cheaply built, it’s not aesthetically pleasing and it attracts crime.

“We all have that bit of NIMBYism in us,” said Huizinga.

The proposed inclusionary zoning would require developers to build at least 10 percent of their intended units as affordable, so if a developer plans to build 50 units, five would be affordable. The ordinance, however, provides a loophole. Developers can opt out of constructing affordable housing by paying the city “in lieu fees.” According to the proposal, instead of building an affordable single-family home, the developer would have to pay the city $115,000; instead of a condominium, they would pay $85,000; instead of a rental they would pay $65,000.

An added incentive to a developer would be that building permit and facility fees are either waived or deferred for all units priced to accommodate those earning under 120 percent of the county median income with less than one year’s earnings in assets.

But if a voluntary measure hadn’t worked, what’s to say a mandate ever would?

“It always concerns me why the voluntary didn’t work,” said Councilman Ken Hays. “I think it’s appropriate, before starting on a new project, (to determine) why didn’t it work the first time.”

Members of the public also expressed concern as to whether or not a mandate was realistic and asked that the city look at such alternatives as market-driven incentives.

Hays said he also was concerned with what he perceived as the plan’s emphasis on newly constructed, single-family homes and he wanted to see the inclusion of more infill construction, which means building from what already there. For example, instead of constructing a home from scratch, why not renovate an existing building?

Councilman Erik Erichsen even questioned whether there was any real need for affordable housing in Sequim.

“I don’t feel that it’s necessary in Sequim,” Erichsen said. “I don’t see that there’s this big influx that means changing Sequim into this type of high density.”

Huizinga countered that with 18,000 of the 20,750 people who work in Sequim living outside of the city, affordable housing is definitely needed.

“We’re a little bit upside down here,” Huizinga said.

Royce Rotmark, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, added that of the 114 calls he’s received in the past year from those wishing to apply to the organization’s program, 49 have come from the Sequim area, many of whom only earn 25 to 50 percent of the county’s median income of $37,300 for a single person.

“There is absolutely nothing out there for them,” Rotmark said. “I really want to get Habitat for Humanity back into

Sequim.”

The proposed inclusionary zoning will go before the city’s planning commission for further revisions.



“I don’t feel that it’s necessary in Sequim, I don’t see that there’s this big influx that means changing Sequim into this type of high density.”

— Erik Erichsen, Sequim City council

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