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