Opinion

Homes and rights: No winners in fracas over affordable housing

They say good fences make for good neighbors. It’s hard to imagine a fence good enough, though, to make Imagine Housing and Eagle Pointe see eye to eye.

You wouldn’t think that subsidized housing for the poor would become such a hot-button topic. After all, affordable homes for all Valley residents is an undoubtedly good thing, right?

However, there really was no avoiding the nearly two-hour session on Imagine Housing’s plans that took place on May 11, at the Snoqualmie City Council—or the deeper community conversation that needs to follow. Superficially, the issue that puts Eagle Pointe residents at odds with Imagine Housing’s early plans for 160 units seems like a classic case of NIMBYism—’Not in my backyard.’ Look at a map, and it certainly seems that way—for some of these residents, the land for the apartments bounds on their own back fence.

Yet who can fault them for their genuine concerns? These folks had an expectation of what their new half-million-dollar neighborhood would be like, and were shellshocked when they found out that not only Snoqualmie’s largest, but the Eastside’s largest housing project was moving in next door, with only a single connector to the highway—right through their street.

Some of them faulted not the idea of publicly-supported housing for the poor, but its placement and connection to their neighborhood. It’s not ironic to hear some of these folks praise the idea and blast the setting—for them, it’s a basic issue of governance. If you were living there, you’d probably do the same.

Less clear-cut is the issue of impacts to local infrastructure. It’s worth remembering that hundreds more residents—many of them school age children and commuters with cars—will be moving to single-family home as Ridge II reaches buildout. A big apartment complex adds to those impacts, quickly, but would only be a portion of the entire master-planned area’s impact.

Then there’s the lingering questions about who knew this was coming, and when. Affordable housing was always a possibility on S-20. If there is any lesson from this, it’s to take responsibility yourself for knowing what will happen around you. Visit City Hall sometime and ask to see the master plan for your neighborhood and your city. Or, go online and do the same. Even if you’re not making a purchase or improvement, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with city plans and changes.

Anyone who’s driven past North Bend Community Church on a Wednesday food bank distribution day should know that the poor do live and work in the Valley. Anyone who’s ever had to do any apartment hunting should also know that the options for working-class lodgings in the Valley are pretty slim. But the poor do have services here, and they don’t limit their lives or their careers to big cities.

This Valley may be a bedroom community for folks with good jobs, but there are plenty of people working here in service jobs who might resent the idea that they don’t deserve to live where they work. Snoqualmie is right to actively build decent homes for all its citizens, and other Valley cities should follow suit. Affordable housing has been part of the Ridge mix for years; there are Habitat for Humanity homes lower down the hill. Folks from differing walks of life live in peace all over the Valley. But it may be impossible to prevent bad feelings between neighbors at S-20 and Eagle Pointe. Right now, without compromises such as a better way for the project to access the Parkway, there are few winners here.There’s no easy fix, no magic fence.

Both renters and homeowners deserve to live in a good environment. And if Imagine’s plan falls through this time, the Valley still needs to confront how it finds decent homes for the poor.

 

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