by Luke Putvin and Mario Lotmore
Ahead of the Aug. 6 primary election, the Lynnwood Times will be asking a series of questions of the Lynnwood City Council candidates who will be on the primary election ballot. The questions asked were compiled from a community survey conducted by the Lynnwood Times to residents asking, “What do you feel are the important issues facing Lynnwood and why?” From about 100 responses the questions fell into three basic categories: Cultural Identity, Growth, and Quality of Life.
All primary election candidates were given a week to submit their answers of no more than 300 words. In this issue, we received responses from 11 of the 12 Lynnwood City Council candidates prior to our press deadline.
Over the last 60 years, Lynnwood has transformed from a rural community to a regional economic hub and is classified as a Regional Growth Center (RGC) by the Puget Sound Regional Council. RGCs are expected to be areas of high-density/high-intensity land development served by robust transit service.
On June 22, 2015, the Lynnwood City Council adopted its 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The plan, as stated on the City of Lynnwood’s website, “is the ‘constitution’ for future change throughout Lynnwood,” and serves to satisfy the planning requirements mandated by the Washington State Growth Management Act.
The Growth Management Act (GMA) is a series of state statutes, first adopted in 1990, that require fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage population growth. The GMA establishes a comprehensive plan with goals, objectives, policies, actions, and standards. The governor has the authority to impose sanctions on municipalities and state agencies that do not comply with the GMA such as withholding transportation funds, motor vehicle fuel tax and real estate exercise tax.
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan requires the city of Lynnwood to meet a population target of 54,404 residents with a housing unit target of 22,840 units by 2035; an increase of 30% and 51% respectively. This, in addition to the arrival of Sound Transit light rail to Lynnwood by 2024 and the development of Lynnwood’s City Center, had many of you wanting to know where the candidates stood on a comprehensive housing policy for Lynnwood.
Questions to Candidates and Their Responses
The questions posed in this issue to candidates were:
- What housing policies would you support to meet the needs of Lynnwood’s current and future residents?
- How would you work with both councilmembers and residents to achieve this?
Lynnwood City Council, Position 4 Candidates
1. It is the responsibility and essential role of the Council to be proactive in managing housing policies, and the Council needs to ensure affordable housing for residents of Lynnwood. Like many other cities around the Puget Sound, Lynnwood is growing rapidly, and with that challenge comes growing pains that affect the entire community.
Since Lynnwood is a small city with limited resources, we will have to provide incentives for private developers to invest in our housing development by providing Density Bonus Programs, to ensure developers would invest in our city. In this model, they can build more units, but will need to allot 10-15% of the units for low and moderate- income housing.
I am excited for the projected growth of our city currently and in the future. There are projects that have been in the making for many years, which will be taking shape for the next 5-10 years that will have a positive impact on our community.
2. I will work with council members and residents to come up with solutions to make sure current residents are not displaced and will be able to continue to afford to live in Lynnwood.
City of Lynnwood is actively engaged in managing multiple projects listed in the strategic plan to meet the needs of current and future Lynnwood residents. Our community model is a suburban city, with standards as a livable, safe city, where all are welcome.
We will have to provide incentives for single family homeowners to build mother in law units on their properties to provide affordable housing for their family members, like elder parents or young adults to ensure affordability.
As a safe, livable city we need to work with residents and council members to make sure we have an active urban core, while maintaining the residential aspect of our city.
1. Housing costs include much more than simply rent or mortgage payments. Living expenses in Lynnwood are greatly affected by utility costs as well as our high tax rates and a multitude of fees.
Utility rates continue to go up. And to salt the wounds, Lynnwood residents are taxed the maximum allowable by law on those increasing utility charges. Yet household expenses levied by Lynnwood don’t stop there. Lynnwood has added substantially to your car tabs. It doesn’t matter if you are well off or just scraping by on Social Security. Those that barely get by are still being charged the same gross amount on their 10-15 year old car as someone that buys a brand-new vehicle.
These are the living expense penalties for living in Lynnwood that make it tighter to come up with housing payments. It would be prudent to begin eliminating the taxes that were added to our utility bills recently. Many were added when the economy started declining around 2009. The city insisted that it needed the money…but so did the residents that were even more affected by the economic decline. Yet, now that the economy has reached an all-time high, the city continues to collect the added new taxes.
2. It is imperative to communicate directly with our Lynnwood residents regarding the pressure they feel with the overwhelming taxes and fees burden. The answers we hear will make it easy to work together with other council members.
1. I don’t know what policies there are on growth but if I ran across any that pertained to seniors, I would support them. For future residents, I would support any policy that maintains equal opportunity.
2. Working with the council and the residents is simple: They are people and I find that all people have an agenda and one just works to each one’s satisfaction.
1. It isn’t about “affordable” housing as affordability is subjective. The true conversation is about basic human shelter that is economically sustainable for our citizens. We have acknowledged, and some have accepted, that growth is inevitable which traditionally comes with rapid price increases. Now, we work with the growth because if we don’t control it, it will control us. I favor up zoning in a balanced way that supports taller dwellings and the environment, and the visual appeal of the beautiful views around Lynnwood. It is also an appropriate time to review single family zoning laws and potential restrictions to allow for increased multifamily dwellings such as condominiums, duplexes and row houses. I support mixed income apartment buildings that bridge cost of living gaps and allow for people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to live together and enjoy the same community. Mixed income projects have a proven track record of supporting senior housing and veterans to emerging income populations, so everyone has an equitable opportunity to access quality and safe housing options.
2. We make better decisions that directly benefit, or impact, residents through citizen engagement, which supports our democratic principles. We achieve this by building relationships within the community, increasing accessibility for engagement, maintaining a presence in the community, acting in a welcoming way so residents feel their voices are being heard, and partnering with diverse community groups to close gaps. I will also support an initiative to increase voter turnout within Lynnwood, particularly among diverse and emerging groups who may not feel engaged or heard.
1. Affordable to low income housing should spread to certain areas of the city instead of being concentrated in one area as it is now. New apartment complexes must contain around 30 percent affordable housing units so that the needs of current residents are served in addition to the housing needs of new arrivals.
2. I would discuss with council members future growth and reinforce that we must balance the economic needs of those who are lower income with new arrivals who are higher income. I’d welcome to the city council residents in multiple town halls regarding housing policies. I’m always open to listening to resident concerns and learning from their stories and experiences.
Van AuBuchon: No response received
Lynnwood City Council, Position 5 Candidates
1. Urban development with high rise condos and apartments is coming to Lynnwood with the building of Sound Transit. Where all of this is going to be built will depend on “good” city planning.
2. The city must work with residents to produce a plan satisfactory to the voters. The wants and desires of the council, mayor or developers is not as important as those of the voters. My conversations with voters so far leads me to believe they want to preserve the rural residential character of Lynnwood.
1. When residents move every year, there is no tight-knit community. Housing stability and the simple fact of knowing your neighbor helps to fight gangs and foster a sense of belonging, which strengthens the social fabric of our city.
We need more Section 8 housing. Developers are fooling the city by using the word affordable housing, but what we really need is low income housing. Every new development should dedicate 15% of its square footage to Section 8 housing to get a license. Period. And old apartment complexes should get incentives to offer Section 8 housing.
I experienced this system when I was teaching at Yale in Connecticut and it worked like a charm. My marble-lobbied high-rise building had dozens of Section 8 residents. The added advantage was that low income people lived next door to wealthier neighbors, so there were less pockets of poverty, unlike the NY projects.
Low income residents should also be able to pay lower taxes and lower utilities.
2. We should all understand that it is in our best interest to have lifetime neighbors. Lynnwood is having a tax windfall due to the increase in property values, so we should divert some of this money to help the most vulnerable among us.
Homelessness is real and affects children emotionally, academically and physically. Just the simple act of moving also hurts many children. For kids who are low income and live in crowded apartments with no playgrounds, their school is their haven. Moving means changing schools and it is a tragedy for these little ones to lose their friends. I have personally seen the tears and the anguish in my young students. It is heartbreaking. Children are our future and they deserve to feel safe, with a roof over their head.
1. I support housing policies that provide for all of the different types of housing that are equitable and sustainable for our current and future residents.
First, we have to acknowledge that the needs of residents are different with the similarity being that everyone wants affordable housing. Leading a conversation with a relative term like affordability is prone to misunderstanding and confusion. The conversation should start with the reality that the State of Washington has mandated Lynnwood to increase its housing capacity through the Washington State Growth Management Act.
The question is how we are going to increase the amount of housing while maintaining our current infrastructure. The city has started planning by identifying the Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA). The City Center Master Plan was created to allow the building of multiple-family housing to meet the demands of our future residents. Within these plans, policies must be adopted and put in place that protect family neighborhoods, encourage involvement of all people and reach out to those who are affected by this mandate.
2. Housing is a regional issue and requires more than council and resident involvement. Council members need to be vocal and present in regional discussions about housing. We need to hold the county, state and federal representatives accountable to ensure Lynnwood is getting its fair share of resources and is being considered when making housing policies.
There have been many open houses to receive community input and articles released about the city’s growth plan. However, the message at these events has to be improved so all residents have the opportunity to be heard and understand the situation.
Lynnwood City Council, Position 7 Candidates
1. Lynnwood needs ALL types of housing. I am supportive of researching a variety of creative housing options whether that’s affordable, market rate, single family, condominiums, senior, work force, Section 8, and others. What I wouldn’t support is housing that creates an unsafe situation for the residents living there, a risk to the neighbors living near it or an extra danger for first responders who will need to protect it and the people in and around it.
2. As a city we are required to grow and there is a plan in place as part of our Growth Management Act (GMA) to do so. Balancing this, along with our City Center plan, is all part of our joint City Council, Mayor, Staff Strategic Plan. This includes gathered feedback from both our appointed Citizen Advisory Boards and other Lynnwood residents. I support these strategic priorities and the core vision statement that goes with it, “The City of Lynnwood will be a regional model for a sustainable, vibrant community with engaged citizens and an accountable government.”
Not only do we need to continue to find ways to incorporate affordable and other housing in a variety of areas of our city, but we also want to encourage companies with living wages to be stakeholders in our downtown core and create an enterprise opportunity where these families can not only work in Lynnwood, but also live and play. They’ll need housing as well. With that said, it’s also a priority to me, with all this growth, that we are protecting the neighborhoods that are already established.
1. Reducing zoning laws and building regulations would let builders build more homes, which would drive housing prices down. Drops in home prices drive property taxes lower and typically when home prices drop, rents also drop — great news for those seeking more affordable housing.
We can also eliminate or drastically reduce the regulations of tiny homes (accessory dwelling units). Tiny homes are great solutions for singles or couples needing affordable housing. It also gives homeowners (some of whom are on a fixed income) a much needed second stream of income.
When more housing is built, density increases and without a solid plan for the future to handle more people, who come with more cars, and (usually) children – traffic and school populations could be negatively impacted. We must plan for and address density head-on.
2. To solve housing we need to do three things:
- Simplify the building permit process.
- Reduce as many regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units (tiny homes) as we can.
- Invest in infrastructure. Lynnwood is a very popular place to live, with light rail on the horizon it’s only going to get more popular. We need to plan for growth and keep traffic moving.
To achieve this three-point plan I will listen to the residents of Lynnwood. I will take their feedback to the council to defend their interests. We will get to work quickly on what we can agree on. It’s the responsibility of the entire council to keep progress free from personal interest and gridlock. We are all disgusted by partisan leadership that doesn’t get anything done — we must be sure to make progress.
1. Suggestions from the Planning Commissioners should be obtained. I would support policies or codes that would help in developing non-traditional housing for mid to low-income residents and policies that will also benefit our single-family communities and multiple co-housing environments.
2. Continue holding local meetings with onsite neighborhood groups, connect with school board members, parent-teacher associations, community groups and speakers who are knowledgeable about housing options and other agencies we collaborate and partner with.
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