Let's get density right in Port Townsend
What is Missing Middle Housing?
- The City of Port Townsend is fast-tracking a set of housing and density code changes to be drafted and passed by council members before April 1, 2023.
- These changes are meant to promote the construction of “missing middle housing” in our community, otherwise known as more dense housing including duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and more.
We need this “missing middle housing.”
And we desperately need this housing to be affordable for a larger range of people who work in our local economy — like nurses, teachers, emergency responders, marine workers, artists, grocery clerks, utility workers, and non-profit and government employees.
In order to house this sector of local working families, homes need to be priced at or below $370,000.
What is affordable to people working in the local economy?
- The area median income (AMI) in Jefferson County was $73,900 in 2022 (as projected for a family of four according to the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development).
- Working households with 150% of AMI (equivalent to $110,850 per year) can afford $370,000 or less* for a. house (the exact amount depends on mortgage loan interest rates, school loan debts and other household debts, etc.).
- But the median sale price for a Jefferson County home was $439,300 in 2020, and increased to $615,600 in 2022 (according to the Washington Center for Real Estate Research). That’s an almost $180,000 jump in 2 years.
- Thus, home sale prices are out of reach for many individuals and families who live and work here. We need to ask: what kinds of policies and incentives will help house families who work in the local economy and earn less than 150% of the median income?
See our Affordable Housing 101 page to learn more about what people working in the local economy can afford to pay for housing.
*This calculation is based on a household making $110,850/year (150% AMI) with the minimum 3% down at 6% interest rates and the average debt-to-income ratio.
Will increased density result in housing affordability?
- Simply increasing density is unlikely to create affordability, which is why we need housing policy that will promote and protect housing that is affordable for people working in our local economy.
- We need increased density combined with measures that ensure that it doesn’t only lead to more housing for those with wealth.
- For more explanation of why middle-income earners in our area can’t afford houses, read this Port Townsend Leader entitled Housing for Whom: Why Port Townsend needs to get density right (a PDF of the article here).
Won’t simply increasing the amount of market rate housing solve affordability?
- Examples in Port Townsend’s recent past show that rushing to build more market-rate housing has not led to affordability. In a January 10, 2017 Port Townsend Leader article (a PDF of the article here), our previous city manager cited newly granted permits for large developments as an answer to the affordable housing crisis. He highlighted a permit for a large market-rate development on Cook Avenue. No affordability protections or incentives were put in place at that time.
- Today, these units are not affordable to the average locally employed household – they are now sold by a nationwide builder/investment company for $700,000 and above.
- There is plenty of demand in our area for units priced at $500,000 and above, but that demand is largely from affluent buyers who are coming from out of our area. Given recent trends, this demand is highly likely to increase over time.
- Unless incentivized by the code to build affordable housing, developers will likely continue to build for affluent homebuyers while working families with average incomes struggle to put a roof over their heads.
The lack of affordable housing hurts everyone in the community
- Many people who work in our local economy are struggling to find housing despite having jobs that provide reasonable wages. Some leave jobs because of housing issues. Potential employees even turn down jobs simply for lack of affordable housing.
Click on our 2022 report to the right to learn how lack of housing has affected sectors across the county.
- An example of how workforce housing insecurity in Jefferson County adversely affects all of us is seen in our hospital having more than 100 unfilled jobs, in large part because of the lack of affordable housing for potential employees.
- It is not enough to have a good paying job in this community. People with 80-150% of area median income (AMI) don’t qualify for affordable housing programs, which typically serve only people who are below 80% of area median income.
At the same time, people with 80-150% (or more) AMI cannot afford to buy houses sold at market-rate prices in our county, resulting in individuals and households falling in a gap that leaves them housing-insecure, even though they play a critical role in our local economy, community, and critical services.
How can I participate in the process?
You can learn more about the timeline and how to give feedback to the city on the city’s residential building capacity page. Currently these are listed as the key dates:
- You can email the City Council: email@example.com.
- You can find the contact information for individual council members here.
- You can link to the city’s meeting page to find meeting dates, agendas, and video links. The video links allow you to watch meetings remotely in real time, or watch videos of prior meetings listed in the archive section.
- You can attend any of the meetings listed on our home page, either virtually or in-person.
- You can sign up to deliver public comment orally, or, you can submit your public comment via email by 4pm day-of by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow along, stay engaged, and share your concerns. Working towards these goals would lead to a healthier and more diverse community; a huge win for residents of Port Townsend!