Port Townsend City Council OKs moves to encourage affordable housing options

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council is attempting to streamline its processes around creating and maintaining affordable housing.

The council approved two resolutions regarding affordable housing Monday night, acting in response to the Jefferson County commissioners’ declaration of a housing emergency and the countywide Affordable Housing Levy that will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

Among the action taken was unanimous approval of the proposed levy.

The first resolution, presented by City Manager David Timmons, is in the city’s best interest to begin prioritizing affordable housing issues and assigning specific tasks to the council, a committee and/or city staff before the ballot measure is voted on in November, Timmons said.

Monday’s resolution tasks the city manager with updating the list of the city’s surplus properties, which would be finalized at the end of December.

The resolution also tasked the city manager and city staff with developing recommendations for changes to the city code that could lift barriers and/or add incentives for affordable housing projects, find options for public/private partnerships for affordable housing developments and conduct public outreach to gather public input on solutions for affordable housing.

The one public comment on this resolution came from John Collins, a Port Townsend resident who questioned why the Homeward Bound apartment complex, which was floated over on a barge from Victoria, wasn’t a specific task.

“I applaud you for having not one but two measures on your agenda relating to affordable housing, which I am strongly in favor of,” Collins said. “I just think that [the Homeward Bound project] is a critical tool in the tool kit.”

Timmons said that project would be a part of the city’s look at financing options for public/private financing options.

“That’ll be like our poster child,” he said.

Timmons and city staff also were told to review and update the recommendations of a 2006 city/county joint housing action plan.

The council finance and budget committee will find and update any city codes that could advance the city’s goal of creating perpetual affordable housing and developing affordable housing finance options.

Councilwoman Michelle Sandoval suggested a meeting with the county commissioners to tackle affordable housing together and make sure the city and county are moving toward similar goals.

“I just want to dig in a little bit deeper on what’s the best manner to cooperate with the county and make sure that the taxpayers know we’re doing our best to spend the money wisely and make it go as far as possible,” Sandoval said.

Councilman David Faber agreed and suggested that be done with an ad hoc committee.

“I just think an ad hoc committee would be more nimble,” Faber said.

The resolution also tasked the City Council with considering whether to publicly support the affordable housing levy.

The resolution was amended and tasks were divided up and assigned to an ad hoc committee, the finance and budget committee, city staff, the Planning Commission and the City Council. The amendment also added a task for Mayor Deborah Stinson: organize a meeting between the City Council and county commissioners.

The amendment was unanimously approved and the affordable housing ad hoc committee was created with council members Faber, Sandoval and Amy Howard.

The council was able to check one item off their list with the night’s second resolution, which asked the council to consider supporting Proposition 1, the housing levy that is on the November ballot.

Collins, a board member with Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, spoke again in favor of the council supporting affordable housing and the affordable housing levy.

“I think this is a good piece of the entire puzzle to put into place,” said Councilwoman Catharine Robinson.

“I think the community is very interested in this topic and committed and working in different ways, but I think we can get a lot out of this.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]peninsuladailynews.com.

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