I believe that housing, especially affordable housing, is the single most important issue on Bainbridge Island. Since the release of the Affordable Housing Task Force Final Report in 2017, not much has been done to address the needs of housing and/or affordable housing on the island. The Affordable Housing Task Force Final Report lays out very specific and actionable steps the City Council must take in order to begin to meet the needs of the housing issues on Bainbridge Island.
If I am elected to Bainbridge Island City Council Central Ward District 5, I would use my position and platform to tirelessly champion for affordable housing of all kinds on the island. To do so I would coordinate and collaborate with stakeholders, experts and organizations (such as HRB) in the community to bring the following actions to council for immediate review and adoption:
- Re-commission an employee part time to work on Affordable Housing as had been designated in the past (Jennifer Sutton or other designee).
- Create a standing affordable housing committee.
- Use the data from our Affordable Housing Task Force Final Report combined with the newly released Status of Bainbridge Island Housing report to assist in creating the badly needed Bainbridge Island Housing Action Plan.
- Implement the Bainbridge Island Housing Action Plan which would include immediate and long term solutions for affordable housing. (see below)
I believe we need a committed team in the form of a standing committee, staff and budgetary support along with a real plan of action. Cherry picking an ADU ordinance or only providing incentive based affordable housing programs will create no significant change that is equitable for all. These are things we should be doing at the same time as we create a housing action plan full of well thought out steps from professionals and stakeholders in our community.
The majority of the public and council agree that housing is a major issue on the island; this is an easy win for our community.
A housing action plan will help provide the city with a strategic framework and identify actions designed to achieve Bainbridge Island’s affordable housing objectives. The planning process includes a review of housing needs, existing housing inventory, and unique community and market factors, and is informed by a robust public engagement component.
Other items I would introduce include streamlining of the permit process and giving priority and reduced fees for affordable housing. The current permitting process at the City is in need of a major overhaul with wait times as long as 6 months for some single family residences. Those wait times can price folks out who can barely afford to build on their lot to begin with. Time is money and with the current price of building materials being triple what they were just a few years ago, it’s almost impossible for most. Fixing the building permit process and applying incentives for affordable housing helps everyone.
In addition, C.O.B.I. needs to create new revenue streams to strengthen the Housing Trust Fund. With more funds, they can be given out regularly and in larger sums to those programs and projects that qualify. New revenue streams can come in the form of a sales tax, property tax, percentage of funds for workforce affordable housing from Bainbridge Island lodging tax and we can use our excellent credit rating as a city to secure funds for affordable housing projects. This is why we have good credit, let’s put it to use.
There are many more wins that we can collect if the will of the Council is to work together to provide affordable housing for those in need. Items include but are not limited to:
- Creating a City Multifamily Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) program that would encourage developers to build multifamily and affordable housing in exchange for a partial property tax relief for a partial property tax relief for 12 or 20 years. This is estimated to be voted on sometime in Q3 2021.
- Begin the work on adopting the Cottage Housing Ordinance that we already have a draft of on file.
- Adopt more inclusionary zoning.
- Identify sites and suitable projects for scattered site housing development.
- Advertise that C.O.B.I. is looking for partners in the affordable housing space.
This is in no way a complete list of what can be done at the City level but I believe it is a reasonable list based on where we are and where we need to go. In closing, I want a housing action plan with a team to carry it out and a Council that supports the work.