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Housing Issues and Resources
The City has created this page to provide information on a variety of housing issues we are often asked about. This page is organized into many subsections providing details with regard to commonly asked questions.
What is the City doing to provide affordable housing?
The City does not build, subsidize, or pay to house City residents. Cities that pay for housing programs themselves need to have funding mechanism(s) to operate these types of programs. For example, the cities of Bellingham and Seattle both collect funds from voter approved property tax levies to construct and operate affordable housing units for those at the lowest income levels within their respective communities.
Housing costs are impacted by a multitude of variables such as: cost of building materials like lumber (whose costs are rising due to fires, trade disputes, a shortage of railcars, etc), land costs, cost of labor, mortgage rates, interest rates, terms of home loans, inflation, regulations, nearby housing markets, and much, much more.
To be as effective as possible the City has developed a multi-year strategy to encourage the preservation and creation of new affordable housing. Click here to view a summary of the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy. Following are highlights and accomplishments to-date:
- 2004 – 2018: Since 2004 the City has applied for and received approximately $300,000.00/year in Federal funds through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). No less than 70% of CDBG funds must be used for activities benefiting low- and moderate-income persons. Click here to read more about the City’s CDBG program.
- 2017: Adoption of Ordinance 3712 to allow Permanent Supported Housing in areas not previously allowed. Permanent Supported Housing is an evidence-based housing system that combines housing with support services for the homeless. Since the adoption of this ordinance the City has been proactively working with Skagit County and others to locate property that this type of facility could be constructed on.
- 2018: Adoption of Ordinances 3748, 3749 and 3750 adopting the South Kincaid Sub-Area and associated ordinances allowing multi-family housing in areas not previously allowed. In addition, City staff is on-track to have new code amendments adopted in 2018 to provide density incentives for the creation of affordable housing, click here to read more about this pending work program item.
- 2019: Adoption of Ordinance 3775 (changes to C3/C4 zoning, unlimited density) and Ordinance 3780 (cold weather homeless shelter and safe parking).
Federal and State Programs Providing Affordable Housing
FEDERAL Low Income Tax Credits (LIHTC): LIHTC is the largest source of new affordable housing in the United States. Created by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the LIHTC program gives specified State and local agencies the equivalent of nearly $8 billion in annual budget authority to issue tax credits for the acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households. Click here to read more about LIHTC.
FEDERAL Rental Assistance (i.e. Section 8, USDA or Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing): Nationwide, federal rental assistance programs enable about 5 million low-income households to rent modest housing at an affordable cost. Click here to learn more about Federal rental assistance in Washington State.
STATE: Washington State Housing Trust Fund: The Housing Trust Fund is administered by the WA State Department of Commerce. This state funded program has been in place for over 30 years. Click here to learn more about this fund.
Other Resources to learn more about housing issues:
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Skagit County’s Web Page on Housing and Homelessness
County-Wide Demographic Information
U.S. Census American Fact Finder
What is the City doing to help the homeless?
The City has no direct funding source earmarked for services to house or assist the homeless; however, this doesn’t mean the City’s isn’t using its resources to mitigate the impacts of homelessness that are felt city-wide.
The Homeless Housing and Assistance Act (RCW 43.185c) was passed by the Washington State legislature in 2006 creating a funding source from the recording of documents that is set aside exclusively for helping the homeless. Skagit County (not the City) receives these funds from the State and they (Skagit County) disperses these funds to local non-profits.
Following are the City’s highlights and accomplishments to-date with regard to homelessness:
- 2017: partnering with Skagit County the City hired a full time social worker embedded in the Police Department whose primary duties revolve around helping the homeless with a variety of issues aimed at getting them into housing.
- 2018: the City adopted Ordinance 3743 to allow temporary homeless encampments on properties owned by religious organizations.
- 2018: the City created a cross-departmental team named the Problem Elimination & Reduction Team or PERT that has identified actions that can be taken to reduce and/or mitigate impacts. Click here to read more about the PERT action plan.
- 2019: Hired a full time employee to monitor & clean homeless encampments, hired park ranger, contributed to land purchase for a permanent supported housing building for chronically homeless people.
- 2020: Adopted two interim Ordinances (3811 and 3812) to re-authorize temporary cold weather shelters and limited temporary encampments, otherwise known as Safe Parking. Click here to read more about the City's regulations authorizing different types of housing for the homeless.
Other Resources to learn more about homelessness:
Homeless in WA State, 2017 Annual Report (WA Dept. of Commerce)