Last night, Sound Transit presented its draft Sound Transit 3 plan to a packed house at Everett Station. The “ST3” plan includes transit improvements that would be funded through a ballot measure this November, including a light rail connection from Lynnwood to Everett.
While the Lynnwood extension funded through ST2 is scheduled to open in 2023, the extension from Lynnwood to Everett will not open until 2041 under the draft plan, prioritized behind connections from Ballard and West Seattle to Downtown Seattle. At last night’s open house, many local residents and elected officials voiced the need to accelerate this timeline, and prioritize the regional “spine” from Everett to Tacoma. There are several proposals in the works to improve the timeline by as much as 10 years, depending on different options to reach Paine Field. An initiative called “Light Rail to Everett” has also come out of the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County to advance this effort. You have until Friday, April 29th to comment on the draft plan before it is finalized in June!
Our growing region faces transit shortfalls nearly everywhere, and a great challenge in prioritizing future investments. In weighing these considerations, the relationship between transportation costs and housing affordability cannot be forgotten, particularly as it affects low income households. While housing costs in Snohomish County tend to be lower than in King County, this is offset by higher commuting costs for many Snohomish residents. According to HUD’s Location Affordability Index, a family earning 50% of the area median in King County could expect to devote 26% of their income to transportation, while a family with the same income in Snohomish County could expect to spend 30% of their income on transportation. As traffic and transportation challenges continue to deepen over the years before light rail and other transportation improvements are complete, we can expect these costs to rise.
Last week, Senator Cantwell announced a national campaign to expand funding for the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The proposed 50% increase would finance an estimated 35,000 affordable units in Washington State over the next decade, around 4,200 more units than would be possible under the status quo.
The LIHTC program is divided between noncompetitive “4%” tax credits and competitive “9%” tax credits. Both have the same funding mechanism, though the competitive “9%” level provides double the equity for housing projects, thus making it more feasible to serve households with incomes below 50% AMI, where Snohomish County’s greatest need is concentrated. The proposed increases would apply to the competitive program, and are sorely needed. Senator Cantwell’s office has also prepared a report on why this increase is needed, including an overview of what changes are being proposed.
In recent months, there has been a growing discussion in our region around how to address homelessness. We hope that, moving forward, the Alliance for Housing Affordability can serve as a venue for jurisdictions to collaborate on meeting this challenge. To that end, the section of the Housing Planning Guide on “Expanding Assisted Housing Supply” now includes addressing homelessness, plus a new page dedicated to the “Housing First” approach. Expect more to come soon.
On February 1st, the City of Everett held a community forum to follow up the November event featuring Lloyd Pendleton. The forum, which can be viewed here, featured experienced housing practitioners from around the state who operate successful low-barrier housing developments. These developments house homeless individuals with significant barriers to traditional housing options – typically multiple mental health diagnoses, perhaps criminal history, and more. These practitioners identify the individuals with the greatest needs, and place them in stable housing. Individuals are provided with the services they need to move forward in their lives, but compliance is not mandatory. They will not be asked to stop drinking completely, for example, but will be asked to stop drinking just enough to comply with minimal obligations. From that point, the pieces typically start to come together, with better success and less negative community impact than if they were still homeless. The discussion from the event was especially useful for those less familiar with low-barrier housing, as the practitioners discussed a lot of common community concerns with these housing projects and dispelled a number of common misconceptions about the chronic homeless population. Expect much more on these topics over the coming weeks on our blog!
As part of its Streets Initiative, the City of Everett is hosting a series of community housing forums. The first, back in November, featured a presentation by Lloyd Pendleton. Mr. Pendleton was a leader in writing and implementing the State of Utah’s plan to end chronic homelessness, with fantastic success through a “housing first” model. I’m posting now as it has come to my attention that the presentation has been posted on YouTube, here, and I would encourage everyone to view it. Not only has this been a highly successful program with many practical lessons to observe, Mr. Pendleton is an engaging, inspiring speaker. More information on his work can be found on Everett’s site.
The next Community Housing Forum will take place on February 1st, with a continued conversation on local successes in housing first models. More information available here.
I’m happy to present a new tool for better understanding housing conditions in Snohomish County communities – the Housing Indicators Dashboard. The Dashboard is intended to provide the most up-to-date, essential data on housing at a glance, with separate pages for the County overall and all 13 AHA member cities. Expect to see more in this space soon, including interactive maps and options for downloading raw data.
As always, please contact Kristina with any suggestions for how to make this tool more useful.
As you may notice in the top navigation bar, AHA’s new Housing Planning Guide is live! This is the initial release, more content will be added soon and updated frequently. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged – we hope that this will be a valuable resource that is responsive to our group’s needs.