County considers housing goals, policies

Planning and community development staff recently presented the draft housing goals and policies to the Island County Board of Commissioners and the planning commission. The department is seeking feedback on the goals, which were created as part of the update to the housing element of the county’s comprehensive plan.

The draft report included five goals: promote fair access to housing and shelter for all persons, promote the development of different workforce housing types, encourage preservation of existing housing stock, increase the supply of subsidized affordable housing, and collaborate with other jurisdictions and housing organizations to address countywide housing issues.

Two new goals were added during the process. Goal four, regarding the promotion of “policies that facilitate the reduction in the share of cost-burdened households by increasing the supply of subsidized housing,” replaced a goal that required implementation in accordance with state law.

“The original goal was something we already are required to do,” long-range planner Meredith Penny said in an interview. “We decided to put in a goal that reflects more of the community’s aspiration.”

Goal five involves collaboration with other entities to address housing issues. Penny said the county was already doing this, but nothing in the original element spoke to this work.

The goals and policies were based on community survey results, stakeholder interviews, a housing needs analysis and a barriers analysis completed as part of the update.

A new policy regarding the evaluation of barriers to building seasonal farm worker housing was added in response to stakeholder interviews that identified it as a major issue, Penny said.

After interviews with nonprofits, staff also discovered a portion of current subsidized housing were close to expiring and moving to market-rate housing, she said. A policy was added to “monitor properties with expiring subsidies and identify strategies and resources to preserve their affordability.”

Throughout the update, Penny said, staff found that manufactured housing represented a significant portion of affordable housing stock in the county and policies were added to support the development of manufactured home parks.

The department is aiming to adopt the updated element in July.

“Now we’re just looking for that final refinement from the public,” Beverly Mesa-Zendt, assistant planning director, said at the meeting.

There will be a number of opportunities for the public to weigh in on the draft.

Planning staff will be available to answer questions and take feedback at the Coupeville Farmer’s Market on April 14 and at the Bayview Farmer’s Market on April 28, and there will be an open house at 6 p.m. April 18 at the Oak Harbor Senior Center.

More information about the housing element can be found on the planning and community development page on the Island County website, islandcountywa.gov

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