The Puget Sound Regional Council forecasts the population of the Puget Sound region will increase by over 1.5 million by 2050. All cities, including Edmonds, will experience continuing growth pressures as new residents move to our area drawn by the attraction of good jobs and our excellent quality of life. In Edmonds, our population is projected to grow by approximately 5,000 by 2035, and there will be a need for about 2,800 new housing units to accommodate that growth.
Recently, there has been significant debate and discussion about how Edmonds should plan for expected growth. I believe some good strategic groundwork has already been laid to enable us to effectively plan for increased housing supply needed for our current and new neighbors. In fact, the Edmonds City Council unanimously approved the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which was updated on Dec. 15, 2017 and provides guidance for the future on a wide range of issues facing the city. As residents consider the direction being contemplated by the city to support expanded housing options, I would encourage them to review the Housing element of the Comprehensive Plan beginning at page 83 for a clear view of Council’s intent regarding the future of housing in Edmonds: www.edmondswa.gov/images/COE/Government/Departments/Development_Services/Planning_Division/Plans/CompPlan2015/CP_2017_adopted_Housing.pdf.
The Housing element of the Comprehensive Plan identifies a number of goals the city should pursue, including housing options to allow our senior citizens to age in place without being forced to seek affordable housing in other cities, expanding the range of housing options across the housing spectrum, encouraging expanded multi-tenant housing options, focusing new housing development (especially multi-tenant development) near transit corridors, managing new housing development such that it is consistent with the character of Edmonds, revisiting standards to enable Accessory Dwelling Units to be added to existing properties more easily, etc. The council-approved Comprehensive Plan calls for these goals to be integrated into a housing strategic plan to be completed in 2019.
An initial draft of the Edmonds housing strategy has been developed, and it should be noted the goals outlined in the Comprehensive Plan are addressed in the draft strategy. I support these goals and believe they must be thoughtfully refined to accommodate future growth while protecting Edmonds’ character. Implemented correctly, our housing strategy should provide additional housing options for Edmonds workers of modest incomes and enable them to live near their work locations. This strategy will have the multiple benefits of reduction of traffic congestion, reduction of air pollutants and an enhanced sense of community.
While the draft housing strategy is only an initial draft and will undergo many further revisions, the initial draft has sparked public concern regarding several issues. With this in mind, I plan to call for the following:
- Removal of the homelessness strategies from the draft. City Council has commissioned a study of the homelessness issue in Edmonds as a project separate from the housing strategy, and the study will be completed by the end of November. Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas, Nelson and I are members of the Homeless Task Force overseeing this study, and we will be working to develop recommendations for full Council consideration after the study is completed. The study will review “best practices” responses other cities have implemented regarding homelessness, and we plan to assess which of these practices will best address our local homelessness situation. The homelessness strategy can and should be developed on a separate track distinct from the housing strategy.
- The existing Housing Task Force that has assisted in launching and guiding the draft housing strategy consists of a mix of Edmonds and non-Edmonds citizens. I believe the core task force should consist only of Edmonds citizens — who have a vested interest in our local housing issues — with selected non-Edmonds citizens participating in an advisory capacity only to the extent they have relevant expertise.
- All public feedback received to date should be worked into the direction of the draft strategy and additional public workshops should be held no later than early 2019 to solicit further public input to ensure citizen concerns are fully addressed.
- An improved communication plan must be implemented to ensure our citizens are aware of the status of the draft housing strategy as it is refined.
- Some have called for a delay into 2020 for finalization of the Edmonds housing strategy. I disagree. A housing shortage exists now across the housing spectrum. We need to proceed with development of a planning framework to ensure appropriate housing code changes and options are brought on line to address forecasted population growth, and as such, the housing strategy should be completed in 2019 as called for in the council-approved Comprehensive Plan.
Rest assured, my fellow councilmembers and I will be thoughtful in advancing the housing strategy and associated plans with an eye toward accommodating growth while protecting the character and charm of Edmonds. Each councilmember has lived here for a significant amount of time and each of us has a vested interest in maintaining and enhancing Edmonds’ livability. While population growth presents challenges, we have a great opportunity to develop a housing strategy all of us — the administration, city council and our citizens — will be proud of.
Edmonds City Council, Pos. #5