Monday, October 3, 2016
By Diane Hettrick
On September 29, the same day that the Shoreline City Council completed its rezone of the 145th Street Subarea, the Obama White House released a study on the need for denser housing in urban cities.
The White House paper, Housing Development Toolkit, talks about zoning regulations fueled by local opposition preventing the development of housing affordable enough for workers and their families to live near available jobs in big cities, such as Seattle.
It discusses the issue of having workers live far from their jobs, with the problems resulting from long commutes. Worse, that workers cannot connect with available jobs, stifling economic growth in the most productive regions.
Scarcity of affordable housing drives up rents, making it even less possible for workers to live near jobs.
The report presents tools for cities to create adequate, affordable housing, including:
- Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines
- Eliminate off-street parking requirements
- Establishing density bonuses
- Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning
Local policies acting as barriers to housing supply include land use restrictions that make developable land much more costly than it is inherently, zoning restrictions, off-street parking requirements, arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations, residential conversion restrictions, and unnecessarily slow permitting processes.
That night, the Shoreline City Council coincidentally did what the White House recommended. They adopted the 145th station area subarea plan, which includes high density multi-family zoning with affordable housing requirements and a planned action SEPA ordinance that streamlines the permit process. As the White House report says, this action will help address the affordable housing crisis in our region and help local families and the local economy.
Councilmember Will Hall stated that "While some local opponents wanted to prohibit apartments and businesses in the station area in an attempt to prevent their neighborhood from changing, the City of Shoreline is responding to the housing affordability crisis by allowing higher density in exactly the places where it belongs: within walking distance of high capacity transit and along existing and planned commercial corridors."