Kenmore prepares for long-term affordable housing options

The city arranges for future rezoning in manufactured housing communities.

Kenmore City Council adopted Ordinance 19-0481 on April 15, making zoning changes to preserve Kenmore’s six existing manufactured housing communities (MHC).

The city is considering future growth in the downtown area north of SR-522, which includes four existing MHCs. The Planning Commission and council are working toward developing Comprehensive Plan amendments that would arrange future rezoning for the MHC properties.

“We have worked hard to proactively develop a plan that protects residents and respects property owner rights,” said Mayor David Baker.

Projected growth within the communities will require increased density needs within the housing communities. The Planning Commission began discussion on May 7 about phased rezoning targeted for 10 years into the future.

“Affordable housing is such a complex issue,” said Baker. “In the Puget Sound area, we’ve seen how redevelopment of manufactured home communities can present real hardships for residents.”

According to the draft Comprehensive Plan amendment, phased zoning is an implementation tool used to support the long-term vision for an area. It would automatically adjust future zoning based on anticipated changes in land use and housing needs.

“For the two parks on the south side, the intent is that those retain the zoning indefinitely — forever,” said principal planner Lauri Anderson at the City Council meeting on May 7.

As the city continues to expand, the need for housing and employment will increase. Kenmore has a significantly lower percentage of multi-family housing compared to most other Eastside communities, as referenced in the draft amendment.

A memo from Anderson and community development director Debbie Bent on May 1 recommended that the Planning Commission consider future affordability levels based on countywide need. Statistics from 2015 indicate that only three percent of total housing units in Kenmore were affordable for very low-income residents, compared to 15 percent for those with moderate income.

The redeveloped MHCs north of SR-522 could be effective for affordable housing options in the future. The current housing communities are all close to capacity, therefore expansion will likely need to occur 10 years from now.

While the need for affordable housing is intended to rise, the city’s future capacity for employment will also need to grow. The next round of Comprehensive Plan reviews will have to consider new growth targets when deciding how and where to implement additional job opportunities.

The four MHCs near the highway are next to areas planned for commercial and mixed-use development, the draft states.

“We anticipate that there will be an even greater need for housing in this area, particularly with the arrival of Bus Rapid Transit,” said Anderson.

Bus Rapid Transit to Kenmore along the SR-522 is predicted to be functional by 2024, including station areas within walking distance to the MHCs. The new transportation system, along with easier access to proposed mixed-use developments, would make residents less dependent on cars.

“As we plan for the future and changing shape of Kenmore, we’ll continue to work with our community to ensure our policies align with community values,” said Baker.