City may join countywide housing committee

By Sara Bruestle | Mar 13, 2013

Mukilteo is leading efforts to form an interjurisdictional committee to help meet affordable housing needs within Snohomish County.

Eleven cities, Snohomish County and the Housing Authority of Snohomish County are considering forming the Interjurisdictional Housing Committee of Snohomish County, which would lead a cooperative effort to develop more low-income housing near jobs, transit and services throughout the county.

The cities of Everett, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Marysville, Lake Stevens, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway, Snohomish, Mill Creek and Granite Falls are also looking into forming the committee with the county and Housing Authority.

“The way to approach this is regionally,” said Glen Pickus, the city’s senior planner. “We’re trying to do what we can to create affordable housing.”

Two housing authorities, as well as several non-profits like Housing Hope, are tasked with provide affordable housing to low income families, the elderly and disabled in Snohomish County.

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County assists more than 5,000 in renting or buying a home. The Everett Housing Authority, likewise, serves more than 2,500 families and individuals in the region.

On its own, Mukilteo works to promote and retain affordability within the city – but it does so in face of higher land and housing prices than the county overall. Not to forget: the city is nearly built out.

“The limiting factors are: We’re pretty well built out and our land values are not very attractive to a housing authority to build projects,” Pickus said. “They would end up spending too much on land when tenants are behind already.”

According to a recent study on Mukilteo prepared by a housing expert, the average median income for households in Mukilteo is $93,120 – also much higher than the county overall. About 671 Mukilteo households earn less than half of the median income, or $43,400 per year.

About 2,850 or 35 percent of Mukiltean households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing and are thus considered “housing cost burdened,” according to the study.

Households with annual incomes below $50,000 will find it almost impossible to own a home in Mukilteo. While there are affordable rentals available, there aren’t enough to meet the demand.

Many of these families instead locate in unincorporated Snohomish County or Everett.

There are 103 assisted housing units in Mukilteo, according to the study. Of those, 42 receive housing vouchers. The remaining 61 units are subsidized.

Mukilteo’s population is also aging: According to the census, the number of retired residents increased from 7 to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010. Sixty-six percent of Mukilteo’s elderly households have an income less than 80 percent of the median income.

As Mukilteans age, Pickus said the demand for affordable housing for the elderly and disabled will also increase. By 2035, the city expects to need another 127 units of affordable housing.

Cities are required by the Washington State Growth Management Act to include in their Comprehensive Plans a section that not only inventories existing and projected housing needs, but supports the development of housing for “all economic segments of the community.”

Mukilteo, for example, has changed its laws to allow the building of cottages or mother-in-law units and other low-cost housing opportunities – although even those efforts are limited by the dwindling availability of land.

“As we build out our community we still need to be thinking about doing affordable units,” said Heather McCartney, the city’s community development director. “Whether those come inside the city or they’re outside the city, it doesn’t matter. We have to continue to create additional housing.”

Snohomish County Tomorrow completed a study on forming a housing committee in 2009.

The 13 jurisdictions received a $100,000 grant ($50,000 per year for two years) from the Gates Foundation to offset the cost of their committee efforts.

The participants are to sign an interlocal agreement (ILA) to create and fund the committee for two years. It would cost Mukilteo about $5,000 per year.

The new committee, with the help of a housing expert, would provide a venue for interjurisdictional cooperation and outreach to meet housing needs in the county.

It would advocate for housing issues and resources, work to retain existing subsidized housing, and facilitate the building of more affordable housing – mainly apartments and condos.

The council is scheduled to consider the ILA in a meeting at 7 p.m. on April 1 at City Hall at 11930 Cyrus Way in Mukilteo.

The committee is expected to be formed by July 1.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.