To celebrate Affordable Housing Week (AHW, May 15-22) in Kirkland, King County and beyond, Imagine Housing hosted a panel of local leaders to talk about their efforts in bringing affordable housing to the area.
“We are so fortunate to have such strong, passionate leaders in our community,” Imagine Housing Operations Coordinator Kathryn Jacoby said.
The event was held at Velocity Apartments, a building next to the South Kirkland Park and Ride that has 58 affordable housing units, including 24 for people who are homeless.
Kirkland Housing Advisory Group chair Dawn Nelson, 48th District Rep. Joan McBride, King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci and Bellevue City Councilmember Lynne Robinson all spoke to those in attendance about things they’ve done and are doing to promote more affordable housing in the region.
“This is one of the biggest, most seminal issues of our time, especially in this region,” Balducci said, adding the affordability of housing has had a downward spiral of effects on the area, most noticeably in the buildup of traffic by people who can’t afford to live near where they work.
They all spoke of the importance of partnerships between different jurisdictions, nonprofits and other groups as key to solving the area’s homelessness crisis.
“We have had some amazing partnerships with agencies including Imagine Housing,” Robinson said.
Nelson shared how Kirkland works with nonprofits who are working on affordable housing, including waiving impact fees. She said the housing advisory group is new for the city.
“We’re at the beginning of our process,” she said. “We’re coming up with a list of ideas and strategies to get housing for everyone.”
She said the advisory group will be holding community workshops, open houses and online surveys to gather citizen input as it moves forward.
Balducci said the county has also recently formed a regional affordable housing task force and will be working on gathering input just as the Kirkland group plans to do.
At the state level, McBride spoke about a variety of bills she’s working on to make sure affordable housing is addressed.
“These bills together can make a sea change,” she said. “We can’t just wish ourselves out of this.”
The speakers discussed the proposed men’s shelter that’s planned for Bellevue and the shelter for women and families that’s being proposed in Kirkland.
While plans are moving along for Kirkland’s shelter, some Bellevue residents have voiced concern about placing a shelter in their city. At the AHW event, Robinson encouraged those who support the shelter to raise their voices as well.
All of the panelists and Imagine Housing staff at the event encouraged those in attendance to take action to support affordable housing needs in the area.
“It’s not just up to our local officials to address the issues of housing and homelessness — it’s up to everyone here,” Jacoby said.