Island tackles affordable housing

A desperate call for affordable housing invariably creeps into campaign speeches for candidates seeking local elected positions.

The Island County Council of Governments, made up of elected leaders from municipalities and port districts, has taken on the issue and is ready to enlist help in giving form to the affordable housing quagmire.

Mayors from all three county municipalities, as well as city planning and housing authority representatives, will meet with County Planning Director Jeff Tate and County Commissioner Phil Bakke March 13 to define an agenda that fosters forward movement and ultimately results.

Tate told the Board of Island County Commissioners at last week’s staff session that planning commission member Bill Massey had submitted specific language that could be used to address affordable housing in the comprehensive plan.

Tate said the planning commission docket must be set by mid-April. Hoping to avoid crossover efforts in addressing the housing issue, he added that he will speak with Massey and relay the Council of Government’s recommendations. Massey’s substantive submission could be included on the docket if the commission refrained from rendering any decisions that could impede progress. Massey is a builder who has constructed a number of affordable housing projects and he’s donated lots to Habitat for Humanity.

“We really look at this as a two-year process,” the planning director said.

County Commissioner John Dean supported utilizing both systems for a combined benefit. He felt the symposium and Massey’s language were not mutually exclusive, but agreed with Tate that no decisions should be made as a result of the latter.

“It’s a nice dovetail, as long as no action is taken,” Dean reiterated.

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