North Bend limits restrictions on low-income housing

The North Bend City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Sept. 7 in order to comply with a state law that limits the city’s abilities to restrict emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing and transitional housing for homeless and low-income residents.

Under the ordinance, the city is required to provide different kinds of housing options that can service people of varying income levels and those experiencing homelessness. The bill also requires the state Department of Commerce to analyze projected housing needs in the city.

“What this really is, is an implementation of a [state] House bill,” City Administrator David Miller said at the Sept. 7 city council meeting. “The legislation found that cities were restricting emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing and transitional housing because they would find opposition from neighborhoods.”

The North Bend ordinance follows the approval of House Bill 1220, which passed the state Legislature on May 12 and took effect on July 25. The bill updated the state’s Growth Management Act to include requirements for affordable housing.

The Growth Management Act requires each city in the state to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines its objectives and policies over a 20-year period. The plan also sets expectations for housing and development needs. According to the city’s council packet, the city’s current Comprehensive Plan will need to be updated, as it does not currently address the housing issues presented by HB 1220.

“Basically this is going to ask cites as they’re going through this [planning] process, to consider all the types of housing we’ll need in five years, 10 years, 20 years,” said state representative and bill co-sponsor Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds). “This is a long-term effort to help us address housing issues we’re facing.”

According to the King County Regional Affordable Housing Task Force, there are currently 27 housing units available, and affordable, for every 100 extremely low-income households. The county is projected to need 44,000 units at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI) by 2024 to meet its growing housing demand. As of 2019, the county had reached 4% of its goal.

In North Bend, there are currently 13 income restricted units at or below 50% of the AMI, according to county data. 70% of North Bend residents with an income at or below 50% AMI were “severely burdened” by housing costs.

The ordinance also comes as there has been increasing opposition from community residents against newly constructed homeless shelters. Hotels in Federal Way, Redmond and Renton, purchased by the county through the Health Through Housing initiative to house homeless residents, have all faced community opposition.

Miller said the bill requires local governments to loosen zoning regulations to allow for these types of housing. He said low-income and sheltered housing is often being prevented due to opposition from residents near proposed developments.

“This is really to say ‘don’t exclude shelter for people who need it,’ you can’t just zone it away,” Miller said.