Letter to the editor: Affordable housing and ‘smart growth’ schemes


When debating the causes for the lack of affordable housing, the “usual suspects” are trotted out for public condemnation. Those erroneously vilified corporations and individuals are always the developers, landlords and the so-called NIMBY single-family homeowners.

The one group that has actually contributed to the crisis of escalating home prices and rents throughout the U.S. but are never chastised are legislators who have enacted various “smart growth” schemes.

The Washington State Urban Growth Management Act legislated that Puget Sound population growth be directed to existing cities to retain the rustic essence of rural areas. Numerous new arrivals settled in established urban areas of Puget Sound.

What could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong was that due to simple supply and demand, the price of residential parcels skyrocketed, and all housing costs significantly increased. To be profitable, developers constructed much larger houses, and “starter” single-family houses were no longer feasible.

Nationally and locally, this phenomenon was observed years ago:


Housing prices in Seattle increased $200,000 14 years ago due in part to smart growth and other regulations.


As a result, Edmonds homeowners may be required to sacrifice their single-family residential neighborhoods, as well as their small-town suburban environment to accommodate dramatic increases in density as a result of that legislative legacy. While rural areas in Snohomish County are safeguarded, cities such as Edmonds are afforded no comparable legislation to protect their small-town environment.

Eric Soll

  1. If an apt bldg I want to live in is full, the owner isn’t required to subdivide apts to make room for me – the bldg is FULL. I have to find a different apt bldg.
    If a parking garage I like has no open spaces, the owner isn’t required to make a spot for me – I have to go to a different garage because that one is FULL.
    If I want to live on a certain street but all the houses are occupied? It is FULL.
    Why are neighborhoods, towns, and cities any different? If it’s full, it’s full. Can’t think of any other situation where if it’s full, the owner is required to make space for me.

    1. I like this and so true. This is reality and a fair reality. These plans are helping no one with real economic needs at all. Many places have traffic issues and schools near that all are being asked to be very careful. Of course we will do that as we care about the children, their yards etc. in most of Edmonds, I hope we do. I do not have children but a yard I do. I encourage organic gardening and provide water shelter for our entire city. 30 years in this process. So I believe we all need to let our voices be heard by all who are contributing to this idea and problem. So we appeal to anyone involved the best that we can. I thank you and all of the commenters here. Remember when you read an article etc. React. It is all we can do, write your CC members. Write to the Chamber and the Boards here if you can find the email addresses. It will take a bit of time but I will find them and then hopefully get them out so people can react as Eric says. Thank you so much Eric.

  2. It’s a bit dishonest to say that “rural areas in Snohomish County are safeguarded.” People living on large acreage properties in North County have had to fight to preserve their preferred small farm lifestyle, and ideal densities of population, just like people in Edmonds and South County in general have had to do and will continue to have to do. Some people with large land holdings in traditional farming areas are not immune from the temptation to sell off large plots of subdivided land for housing development. This is a great way to make large amounts of money with very little effort. It is really more of a market driven problem than the result of any legislation. Rural farming communities have sought the protective legislation just like people in cities are fighting for their preferred life styles and densities with favorable zoning legislation. It’s all just supply and demand in the end. We have too many people seeking too few housing opportunities in all our areas, rural, suburban and urban. When something in demand is scarce, the price goes up. Simple stuff.

  3. The protections provided rural areas in Snohomish County are memorialized within the state UGMA, the Snohomish Co Comprehensive Plan, the current Snohomish County Zoning Map, as well as the Future Land Use Growth Management Map.

    As Casey Stengel used to say – “You can look it up”.

    The introduction and the section called “Rural Lands” in the Snohomish Co Comprehensive Plan discusses this in detail and provides a good start to this issue.


    1. And my point was that many people living on small farms in North County fought long and hard to help get those protections for their farmland. In Skagit County the battle cry was “Concrete is Forever.” My friends in Arlington Hts. helped spearhead the efforts. Some of their own friends fought them equally hard because they wanted to cash in on their land for the development dollars. There’s not enough land and too many people trying to develop what there is. Legislation causing all our density problems just isn’t a totally honest take on it. Too many people wanting to live in the same place is the real problem.

    2. Regarding the last comment I made about the comp plan for Snohomish County, I should have stated that Rural Lands was only the start of the protections in the comp plan. Reading the plan further, it also protects farmland, open space, and forest lands.

    1. Peter,

      MFTE does NOT provide affordable housing, per RCW 43.185A.010: “Affordable housing” means residential housing for rental occupancy which, as long as the same is occupied by low-income households, requires payment of monthly housing costs, including utilities other than telephone, of no more than thirty percent of the family’s income.”


      MFTE housing is not “technically” considered affordable housing, so is not listed when you look up Affordable Housing Edmonds. https://affordablehousingonline.com/housing-search/Washington/Edmonds

      In researching in 2021 the Henbart Westgate MFTE program (which benefits from no taxes for all residential in exchange for 20% of units that are supposedly “affordable”) I learned there were two one bedrooms left to rent, and would cost the qualifying person(s) $1395/mth or $1495/mth. Qualifying individuals could have an income of up to 80% or 115% of Adjusted Median Income (AMI). MFTE housing isn’t affordable for those who are below the Snohomish County AMI.

      Section 8 is the only program that provides affordable housing per the RCW definition, but it is difficult to obtain and there is a long waiting list for available units.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.