Government Planning and Policy

Understanding how states, counties and cities govern housing policy and growth management can be complex and intimidating, so here are the basics to get you started. Much of our regional policy stems from the Washington State Growth Management Act, described below. We encourage you to read these plans and assess for yourself their progress, and engage with your local and statewide representatives to make sure that housing is a top priority.

Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA)

In 1990, Washington State leadership recognized the threats that sprawl developments posed to natural landscapes. The legislature developed and adopted the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA).  The GMA requires fast-growing cities and counties to develop a comprehensive plan to manage their population growth, and Jefferson County was required to fully comply. Among the 13 goals of the GMA were affordable housing, sprawl reduction, and concentrated urban growth. While the GMA has been very effective in urban areas, many rural communities, including Jefferson County, have found it problematic and limiting in their ability to meet housing demand. Visit Municipal Research and Services Center or Wikipedia to learn more about GMA’s goals and requirements related to population growth and land-use planning. 

Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan, Housing Element

To comply with the GMA’s ongoing requirements, Jefferson County creates and updates a County-wide Comprehensive Plan that includes a Housing Element. The Housing Element seeks to understand the problem and establish goals, policies and action items related to planning for housing in connection with growth management.
 

JC/PT Housing Needs Assessments and Housing Action Plan

Staff from the County and City of Port Townsend have worked together on a Housing Needs Assessment & Action Plan. The findings shape dialogue and decision-making at the City and County levels. The last Housing Action Plan was in 2006.

City of Port Townsend’s Strategic Plan

Approximately every three years, the City of Port Townsend develops a Strategic Plan to address the city’s most urgent issues. The City’s recent plans included affordable housing as a top priority.

City of Port Townsend’s Ad Hoc Committee on Housing

The City of Port Townsend’s AdHoc Housing Committee discusses local issues of importance related to housing.  Follow the Committee’s discussions and actions by attending a meeting on the third Thursday of every month at 3pm, or watch a video of the meeting on the City’s website here.

Interlocal Cooperation Agreement (ILA) and Joint Oversight Committee

In accordance with State law (see RCW 36.22.178; RCW 36.22.179; RCW 36.22.1791; RCW 43.185C ), the City and County began in 2003 to authorize a surcharge on recorded real estate documents that support affordable housing and related services for very low-income and homeless families. In 2018, the two government bodies developed a new Interlocal Agreement to determine the structures for disbursement of these funds.
 
Under the 2018 ILA, the City and County developed the Joint Oversight Committee on Affordable Housing and Homeless Housing to discuss and make recommendations on a range of homeless and affordable housing topics, and to create a Local Homeless Housing Task Force. Together, the task force and committee will make decisions regarding the recording fee revenues, as well as review and make updates to the regional homeless housing plans as required by WA State Department of Commerce.  Port Townsend City Councilmember Michelle Sandoval and County Commissioner David Sullivan currently oversee these efforts.
 
Need more information?
Jefferson County: Contact County Administrator Philip Morley at pmorley@co.jefferson.wa.us or call 360-385-9100.
City of Port Townsend: Department of Development Services (Planning, Building, Code Compliance) at 360.379.5095.