Housing affordability is a big concern for cities throughout King County. According to Zillow, the median home value in North Bend is $564,000. In Snoqualmie it is $681,000. Five years ago that number was $337,000 in North Bend and $420,000 in Snoqualmie. For those looking to rent, average monthly rent runs around $2000 in North Bend and in nearby Snoqualmie it’s around $2,100.
The influx of high paying tech jobs in the Puget Sound region – Amazon in particular – has left its mark on the housing market over the past five years. Although the pace at which home prices and rents had been rising has slowed in recent months, the overall spike has forced elected officials around the region to address what some call a housing affordability crisis.
Microsoft recently announced a $500 million affordable housing investment – via below-market loan rates for developers to build affordable and low-income housing. The tech giant also got mayors of Eastside suburbs like Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond to consider zoning changes – like ‘upzoning’ – allowing for developers to construct buildings with more units. In developer world, density is critical. Construction – particularly underground infrastructure – is expensive. Increasing the allowed number of units on land parcels can directly impact the cost of each home/apartment.
Mayor Ken Hearing said in the spring of 2017 that he planned to devote the remainder of his final mayoral term (up at year end) to bringing more affordable housing to North Bend. The future 128-unit River Run apartment complex contains 20% affordable units (80% AMI). The city recently secured three additional affordable units by allowing the developer to exceed the maximum units per building, increasing the number from 10 to 12 via a developer agreement.
The North Bend City City Council also took up the affordable/workforce housing topic at a November Work Study session, with an interesting look into what might be needed to bring more affordable housing to the city.
During the work session, local developer John Day presented a study he commissioned in which Dahlin Architects analyzed the 3.6 acre city-owned land parcel that currently contains the Mt. Si Senior Center and Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum. The study explored how the site might be used to provide affordable/workforce housing in North Bend.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the presentation/study is not a current project. It is only in the idea stage.
According to Community Development Director David Miller, John Day was “very community-minded” when he funded the study to analyze the site for a potential five-story affordable housing project, including a new senior center.
Miller explained the presentation was designed to demonstrate to the council how the site could be used to provide affordable/workforce housing for North Bend. The study contained three site plans that would also need city ordinance changes to increase height limits and reduce setbacks, which would make the five-story building and required parking possible.
Miller cautioned, “This was not a project proposal by a developer. It was a study to illustrate the requirements to achieve rents that match the predominate workforce wages typical of North Bend.” He said the study used ‘realistic financing and design parameters’ to show how affordability could be achieved in North Bend.
According to Miller, city council members had mixed reactions, including strenuous objections to the height and density of the buildings; approval if it was contained to just the one site; and support with a 4-story maximum height.
Some community benefits of the study noted by Miller include: affordable rents for those making $13-$20/hour; a new, redesigned senior center; added residents in the downtown area to support businesses; added downtown parking; productive use of city property as a subsidy/contribution to achieve affordability; potential office/retail space on Bendigo; possible riverfront park design.
City officials and council members stressed that the presentation was merely an idea. Acting City Administrator Mark Rigos said there is zero commitment by the city to this project. He also added that although the presentation designs did not include the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, if anything were ever to happen on the city-owned land, the museum would be accommodated and considered. He said he does not envision a scenario where the museum would cease to exist.
If an affordable housing project of this type ever made it out of an idea stage, Rigos said it would undergo an in-depth development process required by the state, including soliciting public input at hearings and possibly town halls on the topic.
You can see the full study/presentation presented John Day Homes and Dahlin Architects HERE.