Woodinville aims to make housing more affordable

  • Written by Madeline Coats

The area median income in King County is $83,571. Households spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing costs and utilities are considered cost-burdened, according to staff reports. 

King County and Woodinville area median incomes are high relative to what many people in the area can afford. This poses a challenge in recruiting employees and staffing essential emergency services.

“There are a lot of factors that make housing affordable for a certain household,” Associate Planner Roxanne Robles said. “A lot of these things have to do wit

someone’s employment, their income, and the supply of housing.”

Throughout four study sessions, the most recent being Nov. 19, the council heard from several experts working in affordable housing development and management. These special meetings contribute to the greater goal of producing a housing strategy for the city of Woodinville. 

The latest meeting focused on the scope, objectives, and process for developing the housing strategy. Rather than form a separate sub-committee, Mayor Elaine Cook suggested having the existing council at the study session meet three times per month and hire a facilitator to guide the councilmembers through roundtable discussions. 

“I feel like this council deserves something so important to work on together,” Cook said.

Councilmember Rachel Best-Campbell suggested a joint meeting between the council and planning commission once per month as part of the three total meetings. Fourteen voices are better than six, she said.

The housing strategy will encompass a number of topics, including financial mechanisms, homeless support, infrastructure, low and middle-income housing development, and zoning. Staff recommended these potential housing-related strategies based on existing research, education sessions, and the current state of housing in Woodinville.

Robles said Woodinville’s housing supply does not reflect current demographics or demands. The majority of housing stock belongs to single-family homes and there are fewer options for different types of living environments, such as apartments, studios, and townhouses. 

“About 34% of East King County households are cost-burdened,” she said.

Under the Growth Management Act, Woodinville is required to develop a comprehensive plan that includes a housing element. The plan aims to provide a range of housing types, create opportunities for all households at varying income levels to secure quality housing, supply support for people with special needs, foster livable neighborhoods, and develop an approach to meet housing needs regionally.

According to the plan, Woodinville has a large share of land that is presently used and would continue to be used for single-family purposes. This provides an opportunity for housing types that are affordable, such as accessory dwelling units. Only one accessory dwelling unit permit was reported between 1994 and 2010, according to A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). 

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders said the city has spent an average of $5 million per year on capital projects. She recommended the city consult with different types of programs and projects within ARCH to gather funding. 

As the housing strategy starts taking shape, it will include a five-year scope of the local market and inventory analysis, local income and employment, all housing types and markets, goals and policies, and public outreach.

“I don’t think affordable housing is the lead subject of our housing strategy,” said Councilmember Les Rubstello. He said the housing element is part of the larger comprehensive plan, just like transportation is another section. 

Robles said housing is intertwined with transportation and infrastructure for various interconnected reasons. She said housing is not the forefront of the plan, just the focus right now. 

“We’re not just talking about affordable or low-income housing, we are talking about housing capacity in general in Woodinville because we are missing a lot of different types of housing,” Robles said.

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