Lynwood Center is a possible area for affordable housing. Courtesy Photo

Lynwood Center is a possible area for affordable housing. Courtesy Photo

Tax relief for affordable housing

  • Tuesday, May 11, 2021 8:39am
  • News

The City Council this week directed staff to continue creating a program that would encourage developers to build multifamily and affordable housing in Winslow and Lynwood Center in exchange for a partial property tax relief for 12 or 20 years.

The program, known as Multifamily Property Tax Exemption, is a financial incentive to encourage development and redevelopment of multifamily and affordable housing by exempting qualifying new housing development from property taxes on the residential improvement value. The amount of the tax exemption would then be shifted to and divided among other property taxpayers on Bainbridge Island.

The program does not modify or reduce any development standards or permitting requirements, such as setbacks, density or building heights.On May 4, the council chose to begin development of 12-year and 20-year tax exemption programs.

12-year: Requires that, for rental projects, a minimum of 20% of housing units rent to low- or moderate-income households or below and, for home-ownership projects (e.g., condominiums), 100% of housing units are sold to moderate-income households or below.

20-year: Adopted in late April by the state legislature requires at least 25% of units be sold to a qualified nonprofit or local government partner and requires those units to provide permanent affordability. Such homeownership or rental units must be sold or rented to low-income households. A household with income up to 80% of the Area Median Incomequalifies as a low-income household, and a household with income up to 115% qualifies as a moderate-income household.

If the city adopts this program, qualifying multifamily projects would be exempt from property taxation on the residential improvement value for a period of 12 or 20 years after construction is complete. The tax levy would be shifted through a slight tax increase divided among property owners islandwide. In Bremerton, for example, there are four developments enrolled in the program, resulting in about a $24 per year increase for a home valued at $300,000.

The council is considering applying the program to the following areas of BI, as recommended by the Planning Commission: Winslow Master Plan Study Area & Winslow Sewer System Service Area; Lynwood Center Area: Neighborhood Center, NC/R-12 and R-5 zones.

The council will schedule a public hearing for June 8 to gather input from the community on the proposed locations.

Jon Quitsland, a planning commissioner, said the two areas suggested have multi-family housing possibilities. He also said they want to start small to begin a foundation for affordable housing. “We lack rental housing. We need more diversity of housing price,” he said, adding there might also be some potential at Rolling Bay. “We want to facilitate affordable housing, and this is one of the tools” to do that. “It provides an incentive to developers.”

“We have a lot of flexibility in determining our residential targeted areas,” Councilwoman Leslie Schneider said.

Councilman Joe Deets said the city needs to do more and broaden the scope of this, but it’s a starting point. But we’d like to “move forward casting as wide a net as possible.”

Shoreline Master Program

The City Council this week approved four motions to revise the Shoreline Master Program periodic review process and work plan. The clarifications and changes include:

*It was clarified that the periodic review continues to include the guiding themes and review topics originally adopted in the 2019 work plan and staff will proceed as planned. The council also confirmed that the Planning Department will not be proposing amendments to address other substantive legal issues currently under appeal.

*Council requested further scientific and technical information to support the ongoing amendment on the topic of aquaculture. Staff will bring a revised timeline and budget back to council for approval.

*Council directed the Planning Department to cease working on a sea level rise amendment.

*Council directed a change in process that will now have the Planning Commission complete its review prior to the joint public hearing and public comment period.

Periodic reviews are required by state law every eight years to ensure consistency with state regulations and city codes. The department will be posting updated project information to the Engage Bainbridge SMP Periodic Review page in the coming weeks.

Island Center

Meanwhile, the Island Center Subarea Planning Steering Committee has completed its recommendation for the Island Center Subarea Plan following three years of extensive discussion, outreach, review and analysis. The draft Subarea Plan includes recommendations for land use alternatives, traffic calming, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. and trail connections.

Some of the proposed improvements include:

Transportation safety: Add new bicycle and pedestrian facilities and trail connections.

Public improvements: The plan proposes to improve a four-acre city-owned property on Miller Road to create a new flexible outdoor public space with connections to a trail network. The plan envisions incorporating some permanent recreational elements, such as seating and play areas, while allowing for different uses at different times of day and seasons, with parking available for nearby uses and events. Also, expand public and/or visual access to the Fletcher Bay waterfront in Island Center in partnership with private property owners and recreation and conservation organizations.

Land use and zoning: This includes changes to development standards and permitted/conditional uses that serves to differentiate the Island Center Neighborhood Center area from Lynwood Center and Rolling Bay Neighborhood Centers. The committee voted to recommend Land Use Alternative 3 in its draft plan, which proposes adding three separate areas to the Island Center Neighborhood Center Zone, in part to support commercial development and to allow for more affordable housing; the areas are zoned residential.

At the May 5 meeting, the committee made several changes that would enhance policies in the plan related to non-conforming uses, supporting agriculture and improving the city’s Transfer of Development Rights program, in response to committee member proposals.

The Steering Committee focused its discussion on what should be the residential density and bonus density for affordable housing in a future Island Center zone.

The draft plan will be forwarded to the Planning Commission. The City Council will have final consideration.

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