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Published May 2002

Alliance focuses on meeting ‘housing targets’

By John Wolcott
Herald Business Journal Editor

Where would you like to live? Can you afford it? What options do you have for rural living or city living, and what will be the best density of family dwellings for your neighborhood?

After all, there will be more and more of us year after year in Snohomish County, according to the latest U.S. Census figures and projections by county and state planners.

In 2000, there were 606,209 people in the county. By 2005, expect to see that number climb to 728,957, rising to 793,720 by 2015 and to 929,314 — closing in on a population of 1 million in the county — by 2025.

With land and affordable housing growing more scarce each year in King County, people and businesses are moving here at a rapid rate. New people coming to Washington state are also continuing to choose Snohomish County for their home.

To help find solutions to one of the toughest challenges facing residents in coming decades — finding affordable housing, buildable land and the appropriate density for thousands of new single-family and multifamily dwellings — the Snohomish County Housing Alliance is searching for answers. But first, people have to understand the scope of the problem, Alliance members say.

Chaired by Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and Cascade Bank Chairman Frank McCord, the Alliance met in April at the Everett Station to continue studying the concerns raised last fall at the Housing Summit the group held for county builders, bankers, developers, contractors, Realtors, environmentalists, community activists and government officials.

This time, the public-private group focused on how to “meet housing targets” in the county, a workshop discussion that will continue to be examined in future meetings.

There are several significant reasons for that focus, according to Snohomish County Economic Development Council President Deborah Knutson, including:

  • Determining how to expand today’s limited variety of quality housing at all income levels.
  • The need to examine possible changes in county and city zoning, building regulations and housing densities as part of an updating of local Growth Management Act plans.
  • Understanding the “reasonable measures” that GMA allows counties and cities to take to increase residential, commercial and industrial capacity in urban growth areas.

Spurring the discussions at the Everett Station meeting were new Snohomish County population forecasts for 2025 from the state Office of Financial Management and the county’s new Buildable Lands process that tracks and identifies remaining developable land in the county.

The Alliance’s objectives for 2002 include creating and funding an organization to bring all stakeholders together for discussions in a balanced, fair and productive atmosphere; holding workshops on GMA updates and community designs; initiating a constructive dialogue on improvements to the permitting process; and building an outreach program to target community and civic leaders who should be informed on housing issues.

The Housing Alliance is planning to hold a second meeting later this year, as well as publishing a newsletter and creating a program for electronic communication.

For more information, contact the Snohomish County Housing Alliance through its affiliate, the Snohomish County Economic Development Council, at 425-743-4567, or send e-mail to housingalliance@snoedc.org.

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