Together we can find solutions for affordable housing | Commentary

  • Wednesday, May 17, 2017 11:30am
  • Opinion

Some problems feel so overwhelming that solutions seem impossible. We can’t let our region’s lack of affordable housing become that kind of problem.

This week, our City Council joined cities across the state to proclaim this week, May 15-22, “Affordable Housing Week.” We believe that all people should have access to safe, healthy and affordable homes.

To me, this is an imperative. As mayor, I see the need in our community. As a business owner, I see the need among my employees. Our business employs 120 people and only 10 of them can afford to live in Kirkland. As a friend, I see the need among my friends’ and neighbors’ children who are leaving the area in search of housing they can afford.

The lack of affordable housing in our city is a problem that touches every Kirkland resident. The effect sneaks up on us, undermining our quality of life in subtle ways.

Long commutes take a toll on families. Commuting parents miss out on their kids’ activities and children often are stuck in day care, waiting for their parents to return.

It affects our children’s education. Their teachers must face dreadful commutes that cut down on teacher availability outside the classroom, frays nerves and adds stress for both teachers and children.

It affects our first responders, police and firefighters who live many miles away. When disaster strikes, or a situation gets out of control that necessitates calling in help, their response is delayed because of traffic or just the many miles they must travel.

It affects our seniors who can no longer afford to live in their homes or near their loved ones and must seek housing that may cause isolation, leading to more severe medical issues.

This problem cannot be ignored. We must elevate the understanding of the need for affordable housing and take time to discuss potential solutions for our own city.

Kirkland has been working on this issue for years. We have continued a strong partnership with A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). ARCH is an organization created by Eastside cities and King County to preserve and increase the supply of housing for low and moderate-income households in East King County. Since its inception in the 1990s, through ARCH, cities have funded 3,247 housing units on the Eastside.

And the great news is that the last three projects constructed with ARCH dollars have been built in Kirkland.

The city has also been working to implement a new housing strategy plan to implement tasks and goals identified in our comprehensive plan. On March 7, City Council adopted Resolution R-5246 to create the Housing Strategy Plan Advisory Group.

This group of citizens and representative stakeholders from within our community is meeting regularly to develop specific strategies to create affordable housing. They will be reaching out to the community to seek input, get ideas and collaborate on ways to deal with this problem that touches us all.

I urge all Kirkland residents to get involved and help us come up with a plan that works for everyone. We need to work together so that all the people who work in Kirkland can find housing they can afford, so that our young people can afford to stay in this wonderful place where they grew up and so that our elders can age gracefully in our beautiful city beside the lake.

We simply can’t afford to stay quiet about the lack of affordable housing. The problem is big and it is real, but together we can find solutions.

For more information or to submit comments or ideas to Kirkland’s Housing Strategy Plan Advisory Group, contact City Planning Supervisor Dawn Nelson at dnelson@kirklandwa.gov or (425) 587-3230.

Amy Walen is the City of Kirkland’s mayor.

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