Earlier this month, Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen proclaimed May 14-18 as “Affordable Housing Week” in the city. Communities throughout King County are participating in local efforts this week to inform the public of the critical need to preserve and increase affordable housing.
Affordable Housing Week is an annual initiative sponsored by the Housing Development Consortium, which is comprised of more than 160 member organizations. Consortium representatives Joy Horbochuk, Cassandra Sage and Amber Gmerek attended the Kirkland City Council meeting on May 1 to receive the proclamation.
Horbochuk, a case manager at Hopelink, thanked the city for its commitment to and support of affordable housing. Sage, a Lake Washington School District board member and Eastside Human Services forum board member, stressed the importance of housing for students and families and said she knows a Kirkland mom who spent a year in safe parking with her two children before moving into affordable housing this school year.
Gmerek, who co-chairs the Young Professionals Board at Imagine Housing, invited the community to an event called “The Difference a Home Makes,” organized by Attain Housing, Congregations for the Homeless, Imagine Housing, Lifewire and The Sophia Way.
The five Eastside service and housing providers hope to bring people together to learn and talk about the housing and homelessness crisis. The event will be from 6-8 p.m. on May 17 at Bellevue’s First Congregational Church.
“We live in a strong economy here, but people still experience homelessness for variety of reasons,” Gmerek said.
The 2017 Count Us In survey found 5,485 people in King County living without shelter and found an increasingly high number of families who are considered “housing insecure,” because they are spending more than half of their income on rent and utilities, according to the city’s proclamation.
The council also talked about Kirkland’s Housing Strategy Plan later at the May 1 meeting, which included a discussion of strategies for increasing the amount of affordable housing in the city.
Some ideas from the Housing Strategy Plan Advisory Group included city incentives, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and continuing to support organizations like A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). Kirkland has invested millions of dollars through the ARCH housing trust fund over the past two decades to preserve existing and build new affordable housing.
Kirkland has adopted a housing element as part of its Comprehensive Plan, which includes goals and policies to address housing needs for all income levels and types of households, including the homeless and people with special needs, according to the city’s proclamation.
Kirkland has also adopted legislation that supports affordable housing by exempting impact fees for affordable housing units, requiring affordable housing units in market rate developments, allowing multi-family tax exemptions where affordable housing units are provided and prohibiting discrimination against use of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
Walen noted that to preserve open space, cities are planning to take more density, and “to be a complete community, there should be a home for every kind of person in our society.” She also said that affordable housing should be a “compass point” as the city updates its neighborhood plans. The council reviewed the North Rose Hill, South Rose Hill and Bridle Trails plans, along with the 85th Street subarea update, on May 1.
The council discussed adding more housing and development near transit centers such as 85th Street and Kingsgate.
“The combined cost burden of housing plus transportation can be substantially reduced by locating affordable housing opportunities in proximity to transit,” according to the city’s proclamation.
The council, at the suggestion of Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold, requested that each neighborhood plan provide opportunities for housing serving a variety of incomes and explore multiplexes and/or innovative housing types.
See www.kirklandwa.gov for more.