There are a lot of options out there for affordable housing but now it’s up to residents to help local leaders decide what is best for the future of Sequim.
The City of Sequim hosts an informational meeting from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St., to hear highlights from the recent Affordable Housing Study and proposed Action Plan.
Barry Berezowsky, Sequim community development director, said city councilors sought a better understanding of affordable housing in the city so they could consider future policy decisions.
“(The study) supports most people’s intuitive response to housing in Sequim and on the North Olympic Peninsula — we have a discrepancy between household income and what it costs to rent or buy a house,” Berezowsky said.
Consultants Tom Beckwith, an urban planner, and Eric Hovee, an economist, lead discussions on Tuesday on their findings and how the city’s socio-economic makeup relates to affordability in the housing market.
Meeting participants will have the opportunity to provide input on elements of the proposed action plan strategies.
Review the Affordable Housing Study at the City of Sequim’s website at www.sequimwa.gov.
In the plan
For the plan, consultants use strategies from other cities, like Bellingham, in an effort to encourage more affordable housing options for all-ages.
Some ideas include:
• Establish different taxing rates for affordable housing purposes, i.e. provide lower rates for properties considered critical areas.
• Allow and encourage the use of innovative housing products and designs, i.e. allow land to be subdivided into parcels that may be smaller than the minimum lot specified in the zoning district dependent that the average lot sizes remains equal to or above the minimum lot size.
• Defer permit and planning fees utility charges and impact fees for affordable accessory dwelling units, such as smaller homes sometimes referred to as suites for elderly family members.
• Create a prototype, mixed-use project for market rate and affordable units in a specific district such as downtown Sequim.
• Establish an affordable housing deferred loan or shared equity program where the eligible homeowner’s house is acquired and sold back to them under terms they can afford within 30 percent of gross income devoted to housing occupancy costs.
Berezowsky said using a more flexible model, neighborhoods could see more single-family homes with duplexes and other home types.
“It could create neighborhoods with diversity and housing choices,” he said.
“Right now, everything that’s come into the department, or talked to about coming in, is just a straight subdivision. It doesn’t provide any real flexibility that would be of benefit to the developers.”
Berezowsky said the city is not unique in its development.
“The trend has been to build away from the city and force everyone to come into town for a jug of milk or a coffee,” he said. “We used to mix and match our neighborhoods. That may be a model we want to explore again.”
By the numbers
In the Affordable Housing Action Plan, city staff and consultants provide a number of current and projected statistics about city residents:
• Median per capita income in the city is $26,716; median family income is $58,497
• 12.9 percent of individuals live at poverty level; 9.6 percent of families live in poverty
• 61 percent of people own homes while 39 percent rent
• Median house value in Sequim is $203,400 compared to $220,200 in Clallam County
• Median rent is $845 compared to $854 in Clallam County
• Median housing sale prices rose in the county from $126,000 in 2001 to $265,700 in 2017
• 41 percent of people with a home pay more than 35 percent of monthly income towards a mortgage
• 53 percent of renters are paying more than 35 percent of income for a home
Sequim hosts more than 1,700 low income apartment options with 470 available through housing tax credit programs, 598 with rental assistance, and 672 without rental assistance but considered low income.
Affordable housing is considered paying no more than 30 percent of one’s gross income, including utilities.
In a city survey of 89 people, they said (at 92 percent) that it’s difficult for young adults to rent or buy in Sequim. They also believe (at 92 percent) that single parent/guardian-led families, particularly female-led, are unable to rent or buy affordable living units and pay for daycare.
As for solutions, those surveyed said they’d propose (at 58 percent) to establish a housing coalition to monitor and advise on affordable housing policies, adopt cash off-set incentives, encourage housing innovative products and more.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.