North Whidbey Affordable Housing Task Force presented its recommendations and sought feedback at an open house Thursday evening at the Oak Harbor Senior Center.
The recommendations included ideas such as changing density regulations to allow for cottage-style developments or tiny house communities.
Commissioner Jill Johnson said the feedback received would help guide county staff in decisions about which regulatory items should be pursued first. Attendees were provided dot stickers to place over the ideas they most supported, and there were comment cards and questionnaires available for them to fill out.
Johnson said the recommendations presented focus mostly on workforce housing, which she defined as housing for those earning less than $20 an hour, and not on subsidized housing.
Hal Hovey, a real estate agent, said he thought the ideas presented only provided short-term solutions.
“A family of four isn’t going to live in a tiny house,” Hovey said.
He argued only using infill within the city limits will not be a realistic solution because the limited amount of land drives up prices.
Hovey had supported the application for Wright’s Crossing, a large proposed housing development south of Oak Harbor.
“It’s the plan in front of us,” he said. The board of commissioners unanimously voted on the county planning and community development docket in early November, choosing to exclude this application for consideration in 2018.
Kathryn Howell said she feels positively about the recommendations, and she appreciated that they were evidence-based solutions and created by multiple groups collaborating.
“It’s all of our responsibility to make sure people have a place to live,” she said.
Howell, who said she’s worked in health care for seniors, said she thought there could have been more options that would benefit seniors.
While she appreciated the proposed “brick and mortar” solutions, she felt there could’ve been more conceptual ideas presented. As an example, she said there could be more opportunities for individuals to provide services to seniors in return for housing.
Other task force recommendations included streamlining the permitting process, identifying surplus properties as targeted land for affordable housing, allowing a high-density affordable housing development in Oak Harbor’s urban growth area, creating a tax levy to create an affordable housing investment fund and allowing duplexes in single-family zones to name a few.