Welcome to the third part of my Serving You series: Housing.
Through my initial campaign, as well as my term, I have talked with countless people about the struggles of living and working in Leavenworth. Some make it work by sharing their home, some by commuting out of the area to a higher paying job than exists locally, some were lucky enough to purchase when housing prices were much lower. How ever you are making life happen here in Leavenworth, we are the lucky ones, and we know it, and we are concerned about what the future may bring for prices here.
The Upper Valley MEND Meadowlark Housing project was just shutting down as I got on council. The director at the time asked me if we could work together as a whole community to start dealing with the problem of housing affordability. I brought the idea to the Mayor, she started the Housing Affordability Taskforce and together with a segment of our community, we discussed the complicated challenges and solutions to renting and owning a home in Leavenworth.
The Council sent a list of opportunities for changes to our residential code to the Planning Commission that will encourage and support a diversity of housing as well as lower income units. The goals being to simply increase supply to impact the market on the one hand, and to encourage development of units for lower income people on the other hand.
The Council then added housing affordability to our our list of priorities send by resolution to the WA state legislature each year. We have discussed at length the appropriate definitions of ‘affordable housing’ to use at the City. The trick is, we are allowed, by state law, to take many actions that support the state definition of affordable housing, but we cannot do those same things to any income levels outside of that definition.
The Housing Study stated that the highest need for housing is for people who earn about the 80%-120% of area median income. But state law does not allow the City to use those same tools for this income range. Since housing affordability for these income levels is not only a state, but a national issue, we are encouraging our legislature to edit the definition so we have more tools in our box.
While these two actions were important, there were still a couple other recommendations from the Taskforce that were not being accomplished. I asked the Council to consider adding a new standing committee to deal with those items.
In April 2018 we started the new Housing Committee! We have been doing the slow and persistent work to hone Leavenworth into the place where we can all continue living, working, and playing together long into the future.
This is complicated, layer work with many opportunities. Let me know if you want to connect!