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City of Kirkland looks at affordable housing options
Ariana Maher used to juggle her nights between sleeping on a friend’s couch in Eastlake and an air bed in Woodinville.
“I suppose the appropriate term was that I was homeless but not in a stereotypical sense,” Maher said in an email to the Reporter. “I had savings, I washed and ate daily, I did chores and I sent my resume out to several job openings every week.”
Maher had just returned to the United States in August 2011 after living abroad for four years in Japan and Brazil.
But that following October she landed a job at Nintendo and found a new home at Tudor Manor, a mini residential suite in Redmond. It was near her work, it was $620 a month and it was environmentally friendly - she was sold.
Maher’s story aligns with many who face the dilemma of living in affordable housing near their jobs in big cities or facing a long commute. Kirkland apartment rents can be expensive. The average is $1,540 for a one bedroom, according to hotpads.com. With the added gas expense, the cost of living can be steep.
In an effort to help Kirkland workers find homes near their job, Kirkland’s Planning Commission is working with the city council to amend specific zoning codes in the business districts of downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake. The amendments are for the type of inexpensive housing similar to Maher’s setup.
“These go by a lot of different names,” said Jeremy MacMahan, Kirkland planning supervisor. “There’s a lot of these projects over in Seattle and they’re calling themselves adpodments. But we’re not using that name.”
MacMahan said Redmond calls them SROs or Single Residential Occupancies.
“(The housing) is like a hybrid between a hotel and an apartment,” said Jeremy MacMahan, Kirkland planning supervisor. “Individual rooms are all arranged around a common area.”
Each 150- to 350-square-foot unit will have a small bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink, a mini bar with a microwave, a small refrigerator and a bed. But when residents walk out of their unit, they will be greeted by a common area with a kitchen and dining table.
The idea, MacMahan said, is that people who already work in Kirkland but have to live somewhere else because of Kirkland’s expensive housing market, could benefit from these.
MacMahan suggested the residential suites could also be used for students of Kirkland’s colleges, Northwest University and Lake Washington Institute of Technology.
Local developer Robert Pantley of Natural Built Environments proposed this type of housing before but the council claimed they needed more time to discuss the impact these suites would have on traffic and parking in heavily populated areas.
If his plan goes accordingly, Pantley hopes to begin building Kirkland’s first residential suites in a year behind The Crab Cracker downtown.
Pantley is the builder of the SRO in Redmond, called Tudor Manor, and he said there have been many transportation studies done there. Although Tudor Manor’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification doesn’t directly enforce low-auto use, the studies found that there was much more bicycle use than vehicles at Tudor Manor.
“My commute is incredibly easy,” Maher said. “It is a four minute walk from my apartment to the Redmond Transit Center. Then the bus takes eight minutes to take me to the bus stop closest to my office.”
Angela Rozmyn, a LEED Accredited Professional for Natural Build Environments, said, “it’s almost nicer not to have a car” at Tudor Manor. She said all residents at Tudor Manor who don’t use a car receive $25 a month for transit. Those who do must pay between $50 to $60 a month for parking.
“It’s a pretty good incentive to get rid of your vehicle,” Rozmyn said. “It’s a pretty big swing, especially because these units are more affordable.”
Additionally, the City of Redmond provided a letter to the planning commission, which stated a study about traffic at Vision 5 - another residential suite in Redmond - is “not anticipated to create a significant adverse traffic impact.” The letter further said the SRO complex was forecast to generate 11 vehicle trips and 19 pedestrian trips during the evening rush hour. Vision 5 is geared toward artists looking to showcase and sell their work just below where they live and is expected to be finished being built this winter.