Housing for Whom?

As local home sale prices continue to soar it is important to look at what type of residential development is happening in our community and ensure at least some of it is affordable and attainable to local wage earners. 

City and County codes and policy are tools our community can utilize to encourage development that is aligned with our values and to the benefit of the most people. These codes and policies are adopted and modified by our elected officials at the city, county and state levels. However, public engagement shouldn’t stop at election time. Our local officials are continually seeking and influenced by public participation and comment – even just one voice can have a big impact. 

In 2022 HSN added advocacy as one of its’ mission areas. As there has been much talk of increasing housing density and building more units, we are here to ask the question: For whom is this housing? Is this housing for our nurses? Is this housing for our marine trades people? Our grocery clerks? Baristas? Small business owners? Is the housing affordable to our local workforce, particularly those making above the 80% AMI mark and beyond the threshold for most financial assistance. (To learn more about affordable housing, Area Median Incomes and the scope of our work, check out our Affordable Housing 101 page.)

Lack of affordable housing hurts everyone

Many people who work in our local economy are struggling to find housing despite having jobs that provide reasonable wages. Job offers are frequently turned down on account of inadequate housing. This jeopardizes the ability of our local business, nonprofits, healthcare, emergency services and even government, to properly and effectively operate. 

“The average Port Townsend resident or worker cannot realistically live in the City. As a result, more and more people working in Port Townsend seek housing in outlying communities such as Poulsbo, Sequim, Quilcene, and Port Angeles. A city without housing for local workers is not a healthy and financially sustainable community.” – Port Townsend Planning and Community Development Department

The adjacent report details the struggles many Jefferson County Employers are facing as a result of insufficient affordable housing including Port Townsend Police Chief:

"As much as we’d like to have our police officers live and work in this city, it’s unrealistic. And that’s unfortunate."
Chief Thomas Olson
Port Townsend Police Department

Let's get density right

HSN supports housing density and knows that it is key to affordability, quality of life and environmental preservation. However we advocate for  a density strategy that is well informed and places affordable housing at the forefront. Here is a short list of some relevant community conversations:

Won’t simply increasing the amount of market rate housing solve affordability?

Jefferson County is a highly desirable area to live for a multitude of factors. It attracts people from all over (and this isn’t a bad thing!) However, it seems there is an insatiable amount of demand in our area for housing units priced well above what is affordable for the majority of Jefferson County workers. Local wage earners must compete with those outside the workforce or with higher paying remote jobs. Building more market rate units may relieve some pressure and help lower housing prices, but are unlikely to impact prices in ways meaningful to the local workforce. Initiatives from governments and local community members are needed to to make home affordability a reality for many local workers. 

Code amendment and policy setting processes

Port Townsend
In March of 2023 the City of Port Townsend wrapped up a series of code amendments targeted at increasing residential building capacity as allowed and detailed under RCW 36.70A.600. This was a special provision that was outside the normal code amendment process and offered cities some safe harbor incentives. The resulting code ammendments at a glance.

Right now the city is working through annual code amendment process and in the fall will transition to updating the Comprehensive plan, which will be due in 2025. 

More details to follow…

Jefferson County
Jefferson count is also working through their annual code amendment process, as well as preparing for a the periodic review of their comprehensive plan. 

More details to follow…

Washington State 
more details to follow…

How can I participate in the process?

HSN publicizes opportunities for engagement that we feel will have the greatest impact on increasing affordable housing in Jefferson county. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, follow our social media accounts (Instagram and Facebook), or check our home page  regularly. Our calendar is a great place to see upcoming events from HSN and other community organizations, as well local government meetings.

You can also directly engage through the following opportunities:

Port Townsend City Government

Jefferson County Government

Other Projects

Evans Vista
The City of Port Townsend purchased 14 acres near the ‘entrance’ to town. The vision for this space is a dense, mixed income neighborhood where it is estimated 30-50 units will serve 50-80% AMI, 50-100 Units are intended to serve 80-120% AMI. This project is still actively progressing and many details have yet to neb determined. 

Port Hadlock Waste Water System
Jefferson County has been progressing towards the installation of a waste water treatment center for the Port Hadlock area. This would greatly increase development possibilities for the area including the opportunity for denser housing options. 

Mason Street Project
In May of 2022 with the help of Jefferson County Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County purchased a 17-acre parcel of land in Port Hadlock dedicated to permanently affordable, mixed-income, workforce housing.