Learn: Edmonds Housing Commission
Why we have a Housing Commission
Housing is a complex issue that raises questions about affordability, opportunity, neighborhood, and much more. 150 years ago, Edmonds was not even a town; it was comprised largely of forests. Now, Edmonds is a city of more than 42,000 people and part of a larger metropolitan region of nearly four million people.
In April 2019, the City Council authorized a Housing Commission with a mission to develop policy recommendations for expanding the range of housing available in Edmonds, whether rental or owned, and regardless of age, gender, race, religious affiliation, physical disability, or sexual orientation.
The 15-member Commission (plus seven alternates) reflects a cross-section of our community from Highway 99 to the Bowl, north to south, and across socio-economic lines.
All members are Edmonds residents. Fourteen members were selected by the City Council and one by the Mayor from a large pool of applications in 2019. The Commission’s job is to gather information, data, opinions, facts, best practices, and to engage the community as broadly as possible, then develop policy recommendations, consistent with the mission, for the City Council to consider.
[A policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide decisions and achieve outcomes. A policy is a statement of intent, and may be implemented as a more detailed procedure, regulation, or protocol.]
The Commission’s work
When the Commission first began meeting in Fall 2019, it identified concepts to learn about and discuss related to housing. The intent was to explore and understand various concepts and requirements before launching into possible solutions.
Here is one of the brainstorming boards from a community meeting. The Commission wanted to make sure it heard all the concerns.
The Commission took all these ideas and put them into five “buckets” (or topic areas); then sub-committees formed around these five buckets.
Incentives & Requirements: What incentives and/or requirements could be in place for developers to increase affordability, livability, or other desired qualities for housing supply. The ‘how’ of housing development.
City Resources: How to increase or redirect resources and funds to the City for housing related purposes. The ‘how’ of housing funding and partnerships
Housing Types: What housing types exist both in and outside of Edmonds and options for increasing, allowing, or requiring certain housing types in one or more areas. The ‘what’ of housing supply.
Zoning Standards: How zoning standards impact available and/or allowed housing types and locations of certain housing types. The ‘where’ and ‘how’ of housing supply.
City Processes & Programs: How city programs and processes impact housing and development impacts. The ‘how’ of moderating development impacts .
Each sub-committee researches, learns, and listens to bring informed ideas about their buckets back to the entire Commission.
While COVID-19 concerns prevented the full commission from meeting in March and April, the smaller committees continued to work. In May 2020, the Commission met again via zoom and held two extra meetings to ‘catch up’ with the committees’ work.
As of late July 2020, the Commission has had eleven public meetings, one in-person community open house and one online open house, and provided Quarterly Reports to Council to share what’s happening. A website about the Housing Commission and its work is available to everyone in the community at: https://www.citizenshousingcommission.org/.
Community Surveys and Feedback
Not everyone can come or wants to come to meetings, but they still need to be heard. The Commission invited feedback via its first community survey in late January. This survey was fairly general because it was the beginning of the process. Results of the first survey are summarized online at: https://www.citizenshousingcommission.org/ on the Home page under ‘Community survey’.
A second survey, along with really useful and informational video open house, was posted online at www.echcopenhouse.com in mid-July and remains open through Aug. 16. It contains a “first round” of policy ideas being considered by the Housing Commission. The ideas are not recommendations—simply a set of things that are possible and for which community input is being sought.
Recognizing that not everyone regularly uses the internet, 600 paper copies of the survey were mailed. To ensure a true sampling of Edmonds residents, the mail house used a randomization process to send the survey to various Edmonds residents.
Input to the Commission can also be sent via a public comments link on the Housing Commission website (https://www.citizenshousingcommission.org/). All public comments received are sent to the Housing Commission for consideration.
A third survey is scheduled for the fall, after the Commission identifies a “second round” of policy ideas for public input. Again, these ideas will not be final; they will be aimed to get community input before any actual recommendations are made.
And then what?
In December, after discussions, research, and more community engagement, the Housing Commission will make policy recommendations to the City Council. At that point, the Commission’s work will be done. The Council will use the research and recommendations as it considers what needs to be done for housing in 2021 and beyond.
Housing Commission: Fact vs fiction
Since the creation of the Housing Commission, people not on the Commission have asked good questions and others are drawing some not-quite-accurate conclusions. We want to make sure facts are available. When facts are available, people make better decisions. In the coming days, we will post questions pulled from local social media and answer them.