Affordable Housing is a major issue for Bainbridge Island and many other upper income communities, not only across Washington State but throughout the country at large.
There’s lots of good reasons why providing affordable, or “workforce” housing – as some call it, makes sense. Many people who are part of the island’s so-called “human infrastructure” – teachers, retail clerks, police officers, firefighters to name a few jobs and professionals – can’t always afford to purchase a home on Bainbridge, due to the island’s soaring real estate prices.
This is not a new challenge. Over the years, a number of City administrations, along with non-profits devoted to finding equitable housing solutions, have been tackling this issue head on. There have been a few successes. Some homes on Curtis Loop, just off of Ferncliff Ave., are designated affordable housing. The North Town Woods subdivision, across from Woodward and Sakai schools on Sportsman Club Road, initially sold housing that was priced as affordable, but once re-sold, those units have apparently reverted back to current market-rate levels.
The Bainbridge Island City Council spent several years debating the feasibility of putting workforce housing on the city owned Susuki property off of New Brooklyn and Sportsman Club, but that debate has been tabled. Now, the City is considering a pilot project that would allow the construction of some 14 affordable housing units to be built on property owned by Bethany Lutheran Church located at the southwest intersection of NE High School Road and Sportsman Club Road NE.
The Planning Commission on Thursday April 14 will continue a discussion on an updated draft of Ordinance 2022-02 related to an affordable housing pilot project on the Bethany Lutheran Church property, located at the southwest intersection of NE High School Road and Sportsman Club Road NE. The Planning Commission meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Zoom; https://bainbridgewa.zoom.us/J/97340072620#success
On March 24, the Planning Commission discussed the ordinance and approved several motions to refine the draft ordinance. WATCH MARCH 24 MEETING
Ultimately, the Planning Commission will make a recommendation on the ordinance to the City Council. The City Council will then take up the ordinance for its own review and decision. Additional information is available on the affordable housing page.
Previously, the Commission held a Public Hearing on Ordinance 2022-02 at its March 10 meeting. Last fall, the City Council discussed the 2019 state law regarding affordable housing on property owned by religious organizations, see RCW 36.70A.545. The City had received a request from Bethany Lutheran Church, pursuant to RCW 36.70A.545(2) for an increased density bonus for an affordable housing development. Such development is supported by the City’s Comprehensive Plan, specifically Housing Element Policy HO 3.4. On October 26, 2021 the Council approved the following motion:
(We) move to refer this topic to the Planning Commission to work with City staff to prepare an ordinance to effectuate what is intended by RCW 36.70A.545, including to develop implementing regulations consistent with local needs, specifically to focus on the Bethany Lutheran property and to consider that as a pilot project.
The Planning Commission has been discussing this concept and draft ordinance over the last several months. Not everyone is in favor of building new housing on Bainbridge. Jim Halbrook, a retired chemist who gained fame a few years back for protesting what he called the “McMansion Blight” on the island in front of a new high-end subdivision off of Finch Road, has been seen protesting in front of Bethany Lutheran.
Halbrook was photographed on High School Road adjacent to the church property in late February carrying a sign that read “COBI + Church. Partners in Greed.” He declined to discuss his protest efforts with The Island Wanderer, or what he hoped to accomplish by doing so.
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