Reader view: House and Senate bills will not build affordable housing

I’d like to think our legislators believe HB 1110 (SB 5190) and SB 5466 (HB 1517) will create affordable housing, but since all evidence shows otherwise, it’s clear they’re serving only developers. A Seattle Times editorial states:

“HB 1110 includes no authentic proscription to create affordable housing. Instead, it creates market-rate housing.”

The editorial claims “a token attempt” to provide affordable housing. I contend even the token attempt is a ruse. Our legislators have defined low-income household as “at or below 80% of the median household income,” “very low income” as 50% Adjusted median income (AMI), and “extremely low income” as 30% AMI.

HB 1110 allows the “development of six units per lot in all residential zones” if the developer commits “to renting two of the six units at rents that are affordable to low-income households,” defined as 80% AMI. SB 5466 allows “at least 100 units of housing” within 1/4 mile of transit if 20% of units are rented to those at 80% AMI or less.

Snohomish County’s 2021 median income is $115,700/year. Eighty percent AMI for a four-person household is $90,500/ year. See more here.

Eighty percent AMI for one person is $63,350. Minimum wage is $15.74/hr yielding $32,739/yr for a 40-hour work week. Rental limits are set to ensure no more than 1/3 of gross income goes towards rent. Based on 80% AMI, the landlord can charge $1583/month for a studio and $1695/month for a one bedroom. Allowed rents represent over half minimum wage earnings of $2728/month. Those of “extremely low income,” that is, incomes of 30% AMI or less, can’t afford this so-called affordable housing.

There is no upside to these bills. Failure to build affordable housing, override of local zoning ordinances, negative impact of development on our environmental resources (watersheds, critical areas, tree canopy) and on our aging infrastructure, and inevitable future property tax increases, are all serious downsides.

To comment on HB 1110 (SB 5190)and SB 5466 (HB 1517) go to:

— By Joan Bloom

Joan Bloom served on the Edmonds City Council from 2012-2015.

  1. I agree with Joan that the negative impacts of forced density have not been adequately considered. We have many examples to prove that this is a bad idea.

  2. This is a very thorny issue. Wondering where the influx of 300,000 new residents to Snohomish County by 2044 will be housed. If we don’t increase density in our urban areas, I guess we’ll just have to displace farms and carbon-storing forests. There is no perfect answer to this question- but we should at least work together to forge reasonable solutions.

    1. Nancy Johnson, we can save our “farms and carbon-storing forests” through existing GMA processes where cities and town are assigned population targets to plan for. That’s already happening. There is simply no need for the state to be mucking around in local zoning codes, doing city planning by remote control from Olympia.

      Many of Edmonds neighborhoods were developed under county code before incorporation into the city. The last thing we need are 6-plexes in the middle of single-family neighborhoods served by two-lane county roads with no shoulders and no sidewalks. Good planning mandates we put such density where we have the infrastructure to serve it, and that we keep it out of areas where it can’t be effectively served~ subtleties lost on politicians in Olympia.

    2. My question is, WHY would we build housing for 300,000 people to move here? If people want to move here and there is no housing available, they are free to move somewhere else. This “if we we build it, they will come” mentality is eroding everything Northwest. The PNW will be bulldozed down, overpopulated and totally destroyed. We do not have to bring more people here.

  3. The vibrant Edmonds restaurant scene and its Creative District designation make Edmonds a popular visitor destination. The widening income gap and rising housing costs, though, result in our service workers being pushed further and further out. Ensuring that there are viable housing options for lower wage earners is a win-win situation- it serves both the workers and the businesses that depend on them.

    As Joan Bloom points out, a vibrant, sustainable community needs housing available at all price points and the proposed legislation fails to address this. In addition, without clear and specific language providing the environmental protections needed to safeguard our wetlands, streams, wildlife, and tree canopy, our quality of life will be significantly eroded. These WA House and Senate Bills are seriously flawed and need to be sent back to the drawing board. I hope all who are concerned about the future of our quality of life in Edmonds will encourage our elected representatives to do just that.

  4. The rich get richer and the poor get babies – true; past, now and forever. Plus, everyone with a dime or two and some intellect wants to live on the same “primo” real estate. Barring a major Depression, there is never going to be any highly affordable housing in Edmonds (or even near Edmonds) with or without DADUs and 800sq. ft. apartments. This is just another political con job that isn’t going to solve anything. Least of all, actual “homelessness,” let alone housing needs for low and moderate income earners.

  5. Please. Please Please, go to the link Joan provided and contact the legislators. Ask them to send these 2 bills to legislative grave yard. Deeply flawed and only proposed benefit is to the RE developers that will build these properties

    1. I’ve done this and mentioned the above responses and my objections for these same reasons. I hope it does some good.

      1. One thing I always see missing from the discussion of market rate housing not being affordable housing is this: building *more* market rate housing lessens demand thus brings down housing prices overall – therefore making housing more affordable. Very intro to Econ stuff, supply & demand. Allowing, say, a fourplex on a piece of land where a 5000 square foot home would sit creates 4 homes that cost less and creates that much more housing.
        The hard truth about this legislation is municipalities have had plenty of time to show they can do the right things re: housing and haven’t. Now the state has to step in. We kind of did this to ourselves – now we roll up our sleeves and make the best of it – we need housing, this is a fact that no amount of hand wringing can change. The new legislation is workable and is probably the nudge we need to do some thoughtful planning.

        1. Heather,

          Edmonds is built out. Concern that more 5000 sqft homes would have been built is ludicrous. However, once upzoning mandates are in place, owners of small homes may feel pressured to sell. This happened in Seattle’s upzoning prior to the state mandates. Realtors guided developers to small homes, offering above market prices. When a sale was negotiated, neighboring property owners were approached with similar offers. Homes were torn down and replaced with multiple dwellings.

          You ignore issues facing Edmonds; aging and insufficient infrastructure, destruction of critical areas, disabled and senior home owners on fixed incomes facing dramatically increased housing costs.

          The American Enterprise Institute, “a center-right think tank based in Washington DC” (Wikipedia) that advocates for “free markets” labels your supply and demand “filtering down.” “The theory is the more you build, the lower the prices will be,” as discussed in Judy Bendich’s excellent Reader View:

          Upzoning is a done deal, but perhaps, if well written, our ADU code will offer less expensive housing on current Edmonds homeowner properties.
 Public comments are due February 28.

        2. Heather, I disagree with your conclusion, about how “building *more* market rate housing…brings down housing prices overall…” The world doesn’t work that way. In today’s housing market, constructing more market rate housing only diminishes the rate that housing prices increase, it does not bring housing prices down. During its tech boom this last decade, Seattle built thousands of market rate apartments, and rents did not decline, in fact they continued to climb.

          Only an actual economic recession would reduce housing prices overall, and we haven’t had one of those for quite a while. It’s a myth that higher-density zoning is the magic pill that results in more affordable housing.

  6. Thank you, Joan, for continuing to put this in context with the proper perspective. As a community, we have all the knowledge, skills and insight we need to plan for our own growth without outside influence. Just say NO to this proposed legislation.

  7. One would hope a housing strategy would start with the needed price points based on the real-world income of folks. Looks like for a 40-hour minimum wage person their target housing cost would be around $900/mo. I would like to see some data on how many housing units we need at various price points. That would then give us some real targets. Then we can sort our ideas on how to achieve those targets.

    1. Darrol,, Your request for that data is ‘answered’ in the planning board meeting packet for Feb 14. An online public comment session is planned to run for 3 weeks on that same info, and start in early March.

  8. Rep. Strom Peterson came out today is strong support of this bill to usurp local zoning control. My response to him was:
    “HB1110 is deeply flawed and a mistake for you to support.

    State mandates requiring local zoning changes for higher single family zoned areas removes local decision making at a fundamental level. I would have thought your years on the Edmonds City Council would give you some appreciation of that fact. This bill mandates higher density in single family zones with no consideration of, or compensation for, the impacts on local sewer, water, streets and parking infrastructures burdened by such higher density mandates. The only benefit will be for builders and developers and it will not increase the supply of low income housing. Have you priced townhouses in Edmonds or Mukilteo lately? One size solutions do not fit all. What of the people who have invested their life savings into a desired single-family home? Your bill will diminish values of existing single family homes and the undercut the reasons why homeowners bought them in the first place.

    Please reconsider your support of this bill.”

    You can share your opinions with Strom at:

  9. Thanks, Mark. That’s an excellent statement of some of the many reasons that HB1110 “is deeply flawed” as you say. And also a good suggestion to write directly to Edmonds resident, Representative Strom Peterson, to express opposition to this bill.

  10. I think everyone should view these comments again. To me this is the reality. It always has been so read them again along with today’s comments Feb 21st 2024.. How do you feel now Edmonds?

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