PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commission candidates Bill Peach and Mike French agreed that housing is a major problem in the county but offered markedly different approaches to solving it.
Incumbent Peach — a Forks Republican who has been in office since 2014 — is challenged by Port Angeles City Council member Mike French in the Nov. 8 general election.
This latest in the series of candidate debates prior to the election was hosted by the Noon Rotary Club at The Asian Buffet, 1940 E. First St., Suite 160, in Port Angeles.
French is a Democrat who has served on the Port Angeles City Council since 2018 and who has owned and operated the First Street Haven restaurant since 2008.
In the recent primary, Peach received 53 percent of the vote to French’s 46 percent, a difference of 499 votes.
French said the Port Angeles City Council provided $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to Habitat for Humanity, Peninsula Housing Authority and Peninsula Behavioral Health to address various aspects of homelessness and housing.
“We need to talk about the end goal of housing and develop a larger plan of action,” he said.
He said the county needs to increase housing density, especially in its four Urban Growth Areas.
The four things driving up housing costs are historically low interest rates; supply, especially for lower cost housing; demographics and migration, French said.
“Supply is the only one we can control. I would like to see that in a comprehensive housing plan,” French said.
Peach said family-wage jobs are the way to solve the housing shortage. Interest rates are going up, so that will become even more important, he said.
Giving people more money through more jobs is the solution, Peach said. He said more housing is being built in the county because there are fewer regulations than in municipalities.
Two sawmills are being built on the West End that will provide 100 jobs paying $50,000 plus benefits, Peach said. That’s significant when the median income in Forks is $30,000, he said.
The county is reviewing its comprehensive land use plan next year and Peach is looking forward to changing that because he feels there is not much industrially zoned land in the county.
Apartment buildings are French’s answer to the housing shortage. The county needs to develop its own multi-family housing sector rather than relying upon outside developers, he said.
French advocated building upward rather than outward. That also will help to preserve the beautiful environment that draws people here, he added.
Another problem is downward pressure from people such as doctors, who are priced out of more expensive housing so they end up buying the lower-priced housing, driving its intended buyers to the lower priced housing, French said.
Ballots will be mailed next Wednesday.