What’s next for housing effort?

With the coalition disbanded, all eyes are on the city to show results.

The doors of the Community Housing Coalition were closed for good Thursday.

Former director Kat Gjovik hopes the closing of the coalition marks the opening of a fresh, sustained effort to bring diversity to housing on the island.

“It’s not so much about cranking out ordinances,” she said. “It’s about community, and it’s about building community.”

The work of the CHC, created in 2004 to be the island go-to source for affordable housing resources and policy, is being absorbed by the city’s planning department. Gjovik said the move made sense given the city’s resources and expertise.

“It’s only right that the work belongs in City Hall,” she said.

But much needs to be done to transition the effort to planners, the CHC’s final report said.

The decision to end CHC came at the recommendation of the CH2M HILL consultants, who also advised the city to hire a full-time housing specialist and develop a system of housing committees and liaisons.

The coalition’s closure fulfilled one of those tasks, but the report said the city needs to complete the action plan and continue to push affordable housing projects, including ordinances for smaller “cottage housing” and accessory dwelling units.

Along with a full time staff member, the report recommends that a standing committee take a leadership roll in affordable housing, while a community advisory panel be formed to maintain citizen involvement.

The report also suggests the city draft a 10-year strategic plan for diversifying housing, and continue to host forums to raise awareness and cultivate ideas.

One of the big lessons learned over the last few years is that solving housing problems takes a consistent effort, Gjovik said.

For example, securing the Quay Bainbridge apartments as affordable units will be great for the community, but it’s not a solution to rest on.

“What we’ve tended to do is say ‘oh it’s a crisis,’ so we put a lot of energy into to it,” she said. “So some attention is given to it and then we seem to go to sleep on it again.”

Though more data will be needed for individual projects, the city needs to begin allocating resources to solutions rather than the continued analysis of a problem that is well understood both locally and nationally.

“We don’t need to keep studying it to death anymore,” she said.

To Gjovik, the coalition’s greatest success was in bringing established island housing organizations into concert.

“It brought together housing advocates, people who had been working on affordable housing for many, many years,” she said.

City Planning Director Greg Byrne hadn’t had a chance to look over CHC’s report this week,but said he appreciated the “spade work” done by the coalition to projects and ordinances.

The city will need to review the coalition’s work and decide which efforts are carried on. In the meantime, coalition staff have volunteered to help transition the work to the city.

What the planning department can offer that CHC could not, was the expertise needed to effectively forge policy into code.

“It’s much easier to do that from the inside,” Byrne said.

The island-wide interest in affordable housing issues, sparked by CHC, will give the city a good foundation to build from, Byrne said.

“The collaborative community aspects of what they’ve done are almost unparalleled,” he said.

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