BI OKs affordable housing extensions

The Bainbridge Island City Council approved a change in an ordinance in an effort to extend affordable housing.

But a few people who spoke during public comments said it could do just the opposite.

Jennifer Sutton, senior planner, said the change means rentals approved for affordable housing need to stay that way for 50 years, instead of the previous 30. And for home ownership the length was changed to 99 years.

Deputy Mayor Kirsten Hytopoulos gave some background, saying developers are given bonus points for building affordable units. But the unit only needed to stay affordable for the first tenant. “We’ve been talking about this change for a long time,” she said. “We don’t want any more surprises.”

Councilmember Michael Pollock added: “This is so long overdue.”

Affordable housing is “a high priority for the city,” Sutton said.

During public comments, some speakers said the changes could discourage development of affordable housing because it would take longer for developers to recoup costs.

Phedra Elliott, executive director of Housing Resources Bainbridge, asked the council to do whatever it can to encourage more affordable housing. She said homes are scarce as there has been little building in the past 10 years.

Elliott said a new Wintergreen housing development will have 32 of 76 units for affordable housing. HRB wants to buy four of them, and possibly up to 15.