As the city of Snoqualmie buys property along the Snoqualmie River as part of the riverfront home acquisitions project, the city council has taken steps to update its relocation policy to provide housing funds to displaced residents.
At the April 8 city council meeting, an update to the 2019 Relocation Policy and authorization for the mayor to conduct up to three payments in 2019 was approved. The policy was updated to set the limit of assistance payments at $15,000 per relocation.
The city already owns the property in question, and it plans to offer the renters compensation to relocate this year.
As the city purchases the properties, it is legally obligated to provide some assistance to the residents who must move. To that end, the city awards funds to the residents through grants, including conservation futures tax funds and federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Nicole Sanders, senior planner at the city, said the city must provide relocation assistance for market rates of rent for 42 months. The limit of $15,000 was determined after looking at rent costs and moving expenses. The limits are set to balance providing realistic assistance while avoiding enrichment from the funds. Snoqualmie modeled its limit after Seattle Public Utilities, which also capped its assistance at $15,000 in 2017.
It is the first time the city has set an official policy for relocation of residents, Sanders said. The city has given relocation funding only one time in 2017. The city has offered relocation assistance to three groups of renters this year.
Two groups of renters have accepted the assistance offers and the third was presented with the offer on Thursday, April 18. The residents will have 90 days to stay on the property before moving out.
The riverfront home acquisitions project is aiming to remove houses within 100 feet of the river, some of which are on eroding river banks, Sanders said. The houses are subject to the fastest moving river waters and flood damage.
City staff noted the studies of rent rates used by the Seattle Public Utilities and King County agencies that provide similar services are consistent with Snoqualmie’s staff study and that the $15,000 cap was appropriate for the area. The city council approved the policy update in an unanimous 7-0 vote.
The city council also ratified the Mayor’s proclamation of emergency during the February winter storm. The proclamation allowed the city of Snoqualmie to expend additional resources in order to address recovery efforts as soon as possible.
The ratification of the action was originally brought up at a council meeting in March, but it was delayed so the city could take more time to assess the cost of resources used to address the snow as well as damage caused to streets and sidewalks by the snow plows.
Labor, staff overtime, additional help from neighboring jurisdictions and facility damage caused by plows were calculated.
At the April 8 meeting, a resolution to ratify the proclamation was brought to the council but a list of associated costs was not presented. Councilmember Bryan Holloway said the list would come before council soon.
Some of the other council members were confused as to why a resolution was brought back without the full list, but Councilmember James Mayhew said the municipal code requires the city to ratify both the proclamation of emergency and the actions taken by the mayor such as issuing emergency orders. Since the mayor did not issue any emergency orders aside from the proclamation itself, the council unanimously voted to approve the resolution.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to report the correct agency, Seattle Public Utilities.