Looking at ways to bring affordable housing to Whidbey

Streamlining permit reviews and reducing fees for qualified housing projects are some steps being considered to bring more affordable housing to Whidbey Island.

A 30-member Affordable Housing Task Force discussed ideas recently during a Council of Governments special session.

Oak Harbor City Councilman Rick Almberg explained how delays in reviewing permits for proposed construction by local governments often drives up costs. Additionally, meeting some state and federal requirements that are not pertinent to local conditions yet must still be followed add to expenses, he said.

One such “onerous” regulation, Almberg noted, is the state’s stormwater requirements for Western Washington, regardless of local rainfall patterns. The regulations are designed, in part, for flood control and environmental protection.

“The net effect of this policy will likely result in a $30,000 increased cost to each single family residence,” Almberg said. Negotiating more cost-effective alternatives that are still environmentally sound might be a possibility.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson also said theres been many lengthy discussions on the impact of regulations.

“Many of the environmental protections that we value are directly linked to driving up housing costs, so we are exploring the balance between the two needs,” she said.