April 23, 2024 7:43 pm

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City Council housing discussion continues

by LUKE PUTVIN luke.putvin@lynnwoodtimes.com

At the July 22 City Council Business Meeting, there was a public hearing regarding an ordinance to update regulations associated with development agreements.

“The item before you is designed to provide flexibility to the City Council when considering development projects and address unique circumstances,” David Kleitsch, Economic Development Director for the City of Lynnwood, told the city council.

One member of the public, Pam Hurst, spoke during the hearing section. “I am here to address the vague verbiage regarding affordable housing used in the proposed changes to the development agreement ordinance,” she said. “Washington State is in a housing crisis.” She went on to say that builders will not do affordable housing without direction.

“Development agreements in these locations are not only for housing, they are for other projects that may not include housing at all,” said Karl Almgren, City Center Program Manager for the City of Lynnwood. “The language included within the agreement does not preclude a project coming forward from proposing affordable housing, it just sets the terms to be determined at time of development agreement.”

“Each project is discrete and individual, so this is just setting the table for the council,” added Kleitsch. “A development agreement is a tool to go ahead and implement project by project items, so at this time, a requirement [regarding affordable housing] on a project would be too specific to include it in this overarching framework.”

Councilmember Shannon Sessions moved to adopt the ordinance, and Councilmember Ian Cotton seconded.

“This is a really good starting place,” said Sessions. She went on to say the ordinance is a good way to give developers and builders flexibility so they can be creative. She also specified that while affordable housing is a part of the conversation, it is one piece among many.

Councilmember George Hurst said that, while it was nice to see a paragraph on affordable housing, that it was a weak paragraph. He spoke on all the market-rate housing that has been coming in, and he moved that the ordinance should be amended to include “development will be required to provide a minimum of 15% of units be affordable based on an income qualification of 60% or less of the Snohomish County AMI (Area Median Income).” He went on to say that this is the type of action the council has to take, or the city will not see affordable housing. Cotton seconded the motion.

Council Vice President Christine Frizzell suggested waiting until the council could see the white paper regarding affordable housing from city staff before putting numbers on the issue like Hurst. Sessions seconded this.

Hurst agreed to the postponement as long as the white paper was complete by July 29 for the council work session.

At the July 29 work session, Ashley Winchell, Senior Planner for the City of Lynnwood, and others from the planning staff presented a Lynnwood Housing Report. According to the city, the “document serves as a resource for future City efforts to address housing affordability, and identifies next steps in preparing and implementing potential strategies to address affordability.”

The report included information such as Lynnwood’s population growth, the number of housing units in the city, the percentage of cost-burdened renters and homeowners, median monthly mortgages, average rent prices and more.

“We’ve been working on this white paper since April,” said Kleitsch. “This is an initial draft and a resource for council; this is not the end all be all, and it will change over time. This is a living document.”

The presentation ended with suggested next steps to the city council housing plan from the city staff. The next steps included applying for grants, reviewing programs and policies, amending the municipal code when possible and establishing and resourcing implementation, management and administration of programs.

Councilmembers continued to ask questions in a roundtable format including questions on senior housing, tiny homes and others.

The City Council housing concerns will receive votes on the ordinance to update regulations associated with development agreements on the August 12 Business Meeting.

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