Where should workers live?

Simple, decent, affordable — where in Sequim does such housing exist?

The nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, which uses those words in its message, was established in 1992 and built its first home in Sequim. The organization continues to grow in the county but hasn’t built a house in Sequim since May 2006.

“We have not been able to come back to Sequim for many reasons. We don’t even own land in Sequim,” Habitat executive director Royce Rotmark said to Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce members during its May 13 luncheon meeting.

Rotmark said after looking through homes on the market in Sequim, the cheapest he could find was a $140,000, 700-square-foot house that had been built in 1929.

“The people I deal with cannot buy that house,” Rotmark said. “Is affordable housing an issue in Sequim?” he asked the audience. A number of men and women responded with an adamant, “Yes.”

For Sequim business owners, affordable housing is an issue. According to the chamber’s three-year Business Enhancement Support Team survey, 27 percent of those surveyed reported that they had lost potential employees due to the lack of affordable housing. Other factors were low pay scales, poor health benefits and a lack of growth opportunities. Chamber members also reported a 13-percent drop in employment stability between 2005 and 2007.

Rotmark said he has two Habitat families living in Port Angeles who work in Sequim and due to increasing gas prices, they no longer are able to meet Habitat’s no-interest mortgage payments.

In 2006, the city passed an ordinance establishing incentives for developers who voluntarily build affordable housing but not a single unit was built. “It’s been very, very unsuccessful,” Rotmark said.

Habitat is part of Sequim’s affordable housing subcommittee that has been creating proposed inclusionary zoning, which would require developers to dedicate a certain percentage of a new development to affordable housing. Although the proposed ordinance was recommended by Sequim’s planning commission for council approval, it has been on the back burner since March.

“I don’t believe at this point we’re going anywhere with that,” Rotmark said.

According to Rotmark,

Sequim has not been successful in bringing affordable housing into the community because the majority of the council members don’t believe it’s an issue. Rotmark urged Sequim community members to go to meetings and tell the council that affordable housing is a issue.

Affordable Housing Committee chairman Councilman Bill Huizinga recently came before the council with a proposal to hire The Beckwith Consulting Group to create an affordable housing needs assessment. Huizinga says the report is necessary if the city ever wants to move forward with mandatory inclusionary zoning. The report would cost $12,540. The council tabled any decision until later this month.

Huizinga says the notion of inclusionary zoning in Sequim is as dead as the community wants it to be.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Huizinga said. “Right now we’re kind of stopped but it’s going to happen if I have my way. We have to do this.”
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