JANUARY 20, 1997
City waives developer fees for affordable housing units
by Jeff Switzer
Step one was to designate the 22-acres on the North Bypass, former site for a transfer station, as moderate density with provisions for clustering. Now the city has agreed to waive developer fees for affordable units for that project so Woodinville can begin to meet its GMA affordable and low-income housing targets.
With a King County grant on the table, Art Sullivan, director of A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH), says that is how Woodinville can achieve affordable housing in an area with pricey land.
"We're looking for a general policy statement of how fees may be calculated for the property," Sullivan told the Woodinville City Council. The council approved a policy statement 7-0 last week which waives developer fees for affordable units.
While she stated she doesn't like the project or the concept, Councilmember Lucy DeYoung voted in favor of the motion. "I think ARCH is an excellent organization and they do a very good job, but (41) percent moderate- to low-income housing is unrealistic."
DeYoung said she plans to "push very hard" to tell the state and county that some eight years from now the GMA goals should be accomplished and tabled, allowing the area to develop naturally and "maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods."
Councilmember Scott Hageman supported the policy change, but plans to hold it to high standards. "We expect a quality project, something our citizens will be proud of," he said.
The policy statement is intended to provide leverage for the Challenge Grant, plus serve as an incentive for developers to put together a project.
The 22-acre site has been declared surplus by King County. Approximately 11 of the acres are buildable, due to steep slopes and wetlands.
The county's Department of Housing and Community Development, ARCH, and city staff have been exploring how to provide a mix of housing to meet Woodinville's Growth Management targets: 430 low-income and 306 moderate income units by 2016. The base density, eight units per acre, would allow as many as 120 units of the townhouse variety. With affordable units, bonus densities up to 180 units are conceivable.
Councilmembers Barbara Solberg and Marsha Engel expressed concerns over the densities, given the recent approval of developments in the Wedge area. "I don't want our community to be burned by something like this again," Solberg said.
Sullivan said the project would represent a design challenge, reflecting the mix of housing and population the city would be trying to serve, whether it be senior housing or low-income or both.
DeYoung said affordable housing comes either from government subsidy (fee waivers included) or from density. "To me, these are creating low-income ghettoes," DeYoung said. She said she is not an advocate for trade-offs, but would support a high quality low-income project. She asked if the city would "be done for 10 years" with providing affordable housing if projects like this went through.
Planning Director Ray Sturtz said bonus density allowances could be removed from the Comprehensive Plan.
Deputy Mayor Don Brocha disagreed with DeYoung's assessment that low-income means ghettoes. "I'm of the mind that if we meet our goal, we stop," he said. "But we don't get something for nothing. Land prices are very high out here."