Sequim staff prepare options for workforce housing development

Planning director anticipates proposals in coming months

In the coming months, City of Sequim planning staffers will prepare suggested changes to the Sequim Municipal Code to promote development of affordable workforce housing.

“The problem’s been here for a long time: middle income families have been having a hard time being able to buy a home,” Sequim senior planner Tim Woolett said at an Aug. 10 city council meeting.

The effort follows multiple steps by city leaders, including an approved City of Sequim Affordable Housing Action Plan from 2018, and multiple meetings of the Affordable Housing Ad Hoc Committee in 2019 to form recommendations based on the action plan.

The committee came up with multiple recommendations, both short term to long term.

Woolett said there are short-term options the city can do now, such as expanding usage for accessory dwelling units, and expanding uses for the multi-family zone to include duplexes and triplexes.

Barry Berezowsky, Sequim director of community development, said the city’s Public Works Department is looking into the city’s utility rate structure. How that could impact code changes, he said, “remains to be seen.”

“We need to find other ways for the market to address workforce housing issues here,” he said.

When asked about possibly changing building impact fees, Berezowsky said the “council has a lot of latitude (but) keep in mind, when you take the responsibility of paying something away, then it’s placed somewhere else.”

Berezowsky said city staff have met with developers about possible workforce housing options, and City Manager Charlie Bush said the housing committee held multiple meetings with developers too leading up to their recommendations.

Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell recommended the city meet with someone with “good development marketing experience.

“There’s a different conversation that could occur,” he said.

Councilor Troy Tenneson commended city staff for their efforts.

“This is exactly the kind of work I like to see,” he said.

Berezowsky said he plans to return to the city council in 30-60 days with recommendations to promote workforce housing.

For more information, call 360-683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

Committee recommendations

Here are recommendations from The Sequim Housing Ad Hoc Committee in 2019 to promote workforce housing:

Short-term recommendations

• Advocate at the State Legislature for the ability to use the Multi-Family Tax Exemption

• Address the differential in development fees between single family and multi-family housing to reduce the relative costs for multi-family; verify in the rate study that the multi-family rates are correct

• Develop a bullet list of discussion points about housing

• Add multi-family as an allowable use in the Commercial Business and High Tech Light Industrial Zones

• Consider the use of REET2 for housing-related expenses

Short-term to Mid-term Recommendations

• Consider lobbying for federal policy changes

• Help people keep their homes through the provision of technical assistance

Mid-term recommendations

• Be clear on what the assumptions are for development related fees charged by the City of Sequim (by first quarter of 2021)

• Explore developing a community land trust (by 2021)

Mid-term to long-term recommendations

• Starting with community engagement and possibly ending with a survey, consider a sales tax and/or property tax (MT/LT) to support a Housing Trust Fund (by 2022)

• Initiate a catalytic mixed-use project with affordable units and leverage the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone (by 2022)

Long-term recommendations

• If a Housing Trust Fund (HTF) forms, consider using funds to refinance overextended households

• If a Housing Trust Fund (HTF) forms, consider using funds to renovate eligible housing with shared and limited equity loan programs, with REET 2 as a possible funding source.

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