Tumwater City Council talks affordable housing at its worksession

Staff advises that affordable housing should cost less than $1,394  per month

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At the Tumwater City Council Worksession on Tuesday, Tumwater senior planner David Ginther discussed the city council’s resolution from 2018 designed to help provide affordable housing and further suggested to the Council that rents should not go beyond $1,394. 

Resolution No R2018-016, enacted on July 17, 2018, aimed to create activities and programs that would make housing more accessible and decrease homelessness in the city.

Ginther explained the idea behind the number.  According to Ginther, housing costs should be made available for 80 percent of the residents earning a median income. In addition, rent or mortgage costs should not take more than 30 percent of a household’s income. 

In recent weeks, the median price of single-family houses in Thurston County hovers around $440,000. In their discussion, the City Council considered ways to lower the cost to enable creation of a home at $200,000.

Since the median monthly income for a one-member family in Washington is at $4,454 per month, Ginther advised the council that mortgage payments should not take up more than 30 percent of the said income or $1,394 per month. 

Aside from providing guidelines for mortgage fees, the council also considered incentivizing housing units within the Capital Corridor and Brewery District. In addition, they are also planning to extend these incentives to areas covered by the Intercity Transit # 13 bus corridor. 

The proposal is in line with the council’s suggestion to reduce transportation costs near affordable housing units. Ginther explained that the affordable housing units are to be located within a quarter-mile or a 15-minute walk away from bus routes. 

The council is also planning to cut certain payments to lower housing cost. These include reducing park impact fees, water connection fees, and permit fees as long as the unit is within the areas designated for affordable housing. 

Small Housing Incentives

In addition, the council also plans to provide added incentives for the construction of new single-family housing units that are less than 1,200 square feet in size. Ginther did not specify what these added incentives might be.

Ultimately, the plan is to reduce the fees to encourage single small family homes since these units are more affordable than average homes in Tumwater. In fact, there are very few properties that support these types of housing.

According to Ginther, there are only 69 units out of the 2,000 homes in the entire city which are classified as low-income single-family homes.

Aside from providing solutions, the city council also aims to conduct more studies and assessments to understand the extent of the housing issue. The council believed that the information gives them better insights into the current situation.

The council also discussed the issue of homelessness during the meeting. Based on the proposal, Ginther shared that the 2018 resolution obligates the city to devote resources to help the homeless. 

The council added that they planned to provide safer encampments, overnight parking areas, and shelters. Finally, the council is also looking at the potential role of community leaders and churches in providing shelters for homeless residents.  

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