Snohomish County Housing Affordability report identifies priorities for meeting region’s needs

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith Wednesday afternoon officially released the final report of the Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Taskforce (HART).

Begun in May 2019, the task force included 15 local elected officials and more than 40 community members and experts. The HART report establishes a five-year action plan, including early action items, that identifies priorities for county and city governments to meet the affordable housing needs of all Snohomish County residents.

Smith and Somers, who served as task force co-chairs, released the results during a brief Wednesday afternoon news conference attended by approximately 40 officials from various jurisdictions, citizens and news media representatives. A summary of the task force’s work is available here.

“Too many people have been priced out of housing, causing widespread hardships and ever-worsening traffic,” said Somers. “HART’s work over the past six months has now given us a plan to make steady progress on needs across all housing spectrums, from the working poor to the middle class. The only way we can address housing affordability is through sustained leadership, creative solutions, and strong partnerships with our cities and the private sector.”

Asked about the challenges, Somers was clear that growth is inevitable, with current projections calling for 250,000 additional county residents by 2040. “No one likes density, and no one likes sprawl,” he remarked, adding that the HART plan provides a roadmap for cities, private businesses and citizens to work together to meet the challenge.

Two of the challenges addressed in the HART report are the increasing numbers households cost-burdened by the price of housing, and the need to increase the diversity in housing supply by developing more options in the “missing middle” between single family and high rise.

“Much like the rest of the county, Lynnwood is growing, and the prices for apartments and houses continue to rise faster than salaries,” said Mayor Smith. “The recommendations in the HART report provide a way for us to work collaboratively to encourage smart growth, engage residents in the process of finding solutions, and achieve equitable outcomes for all members of our community. I fully appreciate all of the hard work that lies ahead of us but know that it is essential for keeping our communities livable and vibrant.”

The HART report identifies the following five overarching goals for addressing housing affordability with suggested policy, regulatory, and funding strategies:

  • Promote greater housing growth and diversity of housing types and improve job/housing connections.
  • Identify and preserve existing low-income housing at risk of rapid rent escalation or redevelopment, balancing this with the need for more diversity.
  • Increase housing density along transit corridors and/or in job centers, while also working to create additional housing across the county.
  • Develop and implement outreach and education programs for use countywide and by individual cities to raise awareness of housing affordability challenges and support for action.
  • Track progress and support ongoing regional collaborations.

In addition, the report lines out several early action recommendations for completion this year. Among them:

  • Encourage local cities to enter into cooperation agreements with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) and/or Everett Housing Authority;
  • Implement the state sales tax shift to local governments to fund low-income housing;
  • Lobbying for changes in state and federal law to consolidate and streamline funding to support low-income housing;
  • Foster community conversations about density;
  • Engage private sector stakeholders in helping to find solutions to our housing affordability challenge; and
  • Confirm and support an ongoing structure for regional collaboration around production of housing across the entire income spectrum.

The full report is available here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. This report is very complete and lays out the strategies for Snohomish County. Our government has been very involved with the development of this plan. This should be mandatory reading for all or our Housing Commissioners. Given their understanding of this plan makes their job much easier and less complicated.

    After a careful review of the plan the challenges will be which of the strategies will work best and where. Citizens of Edmonds will be better served if we read the plan before the public meeting and use what you learn for answering the survey questions.

  2. Regarding housing density, I am a proponent of using high walk score, enjoyable, neighborhoods and downtowns, with a maximum of three story buildings, preferably two story buildings. This environment creates a small, hometown feeling. From what I have learned, the term for this is Worker Housing. Perhaps it comes from shop owners and, or employee familys’ living within the same building as the commercial space. Those types of main streets, and downtowns are probably the award winners in many categories including places, beauty, attractions, etc. I would go out of my way to live in a densely populated small city. I don’t mean high rises or by highways or thoroughfares. Living in in high rise buildings on busy streets is a compromise, or a necessity due to low income, to air and noise pollution. One also has to compromise to a busier, faster moving life with the stimulation of multiple forms of traffic. If cities, including Edmonds (areas like Downtown, Five Corners, etc.), would consider allowing property owners to repurpose non-used commercial and office space population density could increase without as many forecasted buildings. Minimalist (furnished or unfurnished) apartments could add great local benefit. More service workers who are currently commuting and losing hours of their quality time, and part of their finances, and do not have much of a stake in Edmonds would be able to live in Edmonds, get more rest, be happier, have less ware on their vehicle and would have more of a stake in the Edmonds community. It would be much more neighborly. Not only could Edmonds workers move here, existing workers could more likely afford to live here.

  3. Donald Williams, A large portion of my educational and vocational background is in civic work and social science research. Out of context statements that are found true in certain parameters can be found to be the opposite in other parameters. There are also studies on cities of higher densities, (Edmonds comes no where near a big city) where people rely much more on walking for their primary transportation in their communities are much healthier than those who choose to not have amenities available. Residents walking in higher density neighborhoods, with readily available amenities can have decreased pollutants (air, noise); increases local commerce; people feel safer and get to know their neighbors; food is fresher (bakeries, pastas, fish). It all depends on if it is controlled, envisioned, compassionate growth, working together, moving forward as a community, or if it is large, industrial, high rise, big transport growth. And on that I believe you and I do not want the latter. If Edmonds wants people who make pasta, who bake bread, who gut fish, so that Edmonds can eat fresh food and trust the lower income workers who live here and provide it, then they must value these people with respect as trusted welcomed citizens of Edmonds. Donald Williams, In the future, and if you are going to respond to this email in a debate form, please provide a source for the provided and future quote.

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