The Lynnwood City Council invited community members to join a panel discussion at the council’s July 8 business meeting to discuss housing availability in the city.
After the Monday business meeting, the council broke into an informal work session to continue discussion from its June 10 meeting on developing a policy that would encourage the construction of more affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families.
Each councilmember was tasked with inviting two professionals and/or community stakeholders to the July 8 meeting to bring ideas and discuss opportunities the city has to improve housing ordinances, and to create opportunities for developers and builders to offer more housing of all types.
“We’re really looking to do what we can to help all the citizens in the City of Lynnwood,” said City Council President Ben Goodwin.
During the round table discussion, invitees were asked three questions by the council: How can the city improve the availability of housing for all income levels; are there new codes that need to be enacted or are there current codes that need to be revised in order to create more opportunities; and what other policy discussions need to be included in city officials’ efforts to increase housing availability?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey — which is a subset of the survey that focuses on housing and household income — the Lynnwood’s 2017 population was almost 37,000 people. The survey reported 14,892 housing units with 14,011 of those occupied, meaning the vacancy rate was 3 percent. Single-family units — including mobile homes and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — accounted for 54 percent of the housing stock. That same year, the median household income in the city was $58,852 — the third lowest median income in Snohomish County at the time.
The current federal threshold to be approved for subsidized housing requires more than 30 percent of the household income goes toward rent, said Housing Authority of Snohomish County Executive Director Mark Smith.
Currently, Lynnwood does not have a shelter for those who are homeless. However, Everett Gospel Mission Director Sylvia Anderson said a shelter is the first step to getting people off the streets.
“Part of the continuum of really making housing available for all people is making that entry gate and having a shelter in Lynnwood,” she said.
As the city prepares for a population influx, former-land developer and builder Patrick Crosby said city staff should be mindful of protecting property values of the city’s homeowners when rezoning for more affordable housing developments.
“I have a lot of compassion, but I also have compassion for people who spent half a million dollars on their house,” he said.
Homes and Hub Community Land Trust CEO Kim Toskey said the city could change zoning laws to allow for more ADUs and detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs). ADUs are housing units in established residences like converted garages or basements. DADUs are detached units, like guest houses and backyard cottages. According to Toskey, more than 30 percent of ADUs and DADUs nationally are rented to family members and 80 percent are below market value.
“ADUs and DADUs allow the private market to invest in what is almost always affordable housing,” Toskey said.
As density is expected to increase due to the incoming Lynnwood Link light rail station, residents are beginning to worry their small-town living will be washed away by gentrification. However, Toskey said community can still be found in density. Toskey said she owns a six-story condo in Lake City that has “tremendous community.”
“It’s a great little slice of Mayberry in an otherwise urban setting,” she said, referring to the 1960s television show that portrayed a utopian idea of small-town life.
Additionally, Everett Gospel Mission’s Anderson said low-income individuals don’t want to be where they do not feel welcome nor do they want to be grouped together. She said lumping low-income families in the same space can create “projects,” which the city should avoid.
“What we know that works is when we’re together,” she said. “When we’re with whatever the ‘other’ is and when we’re living in communities together, then we have a strong community for the whole.”
In other business, Public Works Director Bill Franz presented an update to the council on the city’s vegetation management plan and the use of herbicides throughout the city. Starting in the fall, city staff is considering using an organic, clove oil-based herbicide to remove unwanted vegetation.
During the meeting, council also received a ceremonial check for $62,000 from the city’s Traffic Management Center. Four years ago, the TMC began working with Snohomish County PUD to reduce energy costs for the city’s street lights by switching from incandescent light fixtures to cost-efficient LED lights. The LED lights have reduced energy costs up to 90 percent and have a 15-year lifespan — three times longer than the incandescent lights, said Mayor Nicola Smith.
According to Smith, the Snohomish County PUD offers incentive rebates for using energy-efficient lights. The city received $50,000 in rebates and expect to receive an additional $12,000.
Also, as part of its consent agenda, the council unanimously authorized the mayor to enter into and execute a supplemental agreement with Seattle-based BHC Consultants for building repairs to the Wastewaster Treatment Plant, not to exceed $698,000. According to city staff, the repairs are necessary to remedy degradation and to provide adequate shelter for the wastewater treatment systems and city staff.
–Story and photos by Cody Sexton