Bellevue residents enthusiastically support a range of ideas to increase housing affordability :: NPI’s Cascadia Advocate

Earlier this month, at Crossroads Community Center and here on NPI’s Cascadia Advocate, we released top results from our first-ever survey of Bellevue, Washington’s fifth-largest city, which show residents are dissatisfied with the market. housing and want their elected officials to take a ‘hands-on’ approach to managing growth through policies such as mandatory housing affordability.

Seattle weatherthe Bellevue Journalist, KIRO7and KOMO AM 1000 Radio all carried stories about the release of these results, which we published in partnership with our friends at Complete streets Bellevue, the sightline institute, Eastside for alland the Housing Development Consortium (HDC).

Today, as promised, our team and the Bellevue Housing Research Coalition have additional findings to share that illustrate the extent of Bellevue residents’ enthusiasm for policies that could bring us closer to a housing future for all.

Visualization of NPI’s finding that Bellevue residents support commercial fees for affordable housing

These results show that Bellevue residents broadly agree on a number of ideas for addressing the city and region’s housing crisis, from creating additional homelessness assistance programs to the property to the authorization of the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADU) such as backyard chalets in each neighborhood to relax. restrictions such as building height limits for projects that preserve existing mature trees on the property rather than cutting them down.

Each of the ideas you will see below has the support of a majority of residents, and all but one have the support of more than two-thirds of residents.

Three ideas even have the support of more than three quarters of the inhabitants.

The inspiration for many of the policy proposals we chose to explore with Bellevue residents interviewed by our interviewer was the “Next Right Work” that City of Bellevue staff and consultants have undertaken in recent months under the direction of the municipal council of Bellevue. to strengthen the city’s affordable housing strategy. This process has resulted in many substantive conversations, but it has yet to lead to the decisive action that residents want to see from their council.

Our survey shows that a series of these Next Right Work ideas are very popular with residents of the city and should be quickly adopted by the Council.

Looked:

QUESTION: Bellevue City Council is considering a number of ideas to increase the availability of affordable housing in the city’s predominantly residential areas. Please indicate whether you support or oppose each of the following policies.

IDEAS & ANSWERS

Create additional homeownership assistance programs to support first-time buyers and low-income households

Support: 78% Opposite: 18% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 4%
51% 27% 8% 9% ———

Encourage the development of townhouses and townhouses

Support: 76% Opposite: 18% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 6%
37% 39% 13% 5% ———

Allow the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), such as backyard cottages, in all neighborhoods

Support: 75% Opposite: 20% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 5%
41% 34% 8% 12% ———

Grant developers a “density bonus” (allowing, for example, taller buildings) if a minimum number of affordable housing units are built as part of the project

Support: 65% Opposed: 29% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly 6%
28% 37% 13% 16% ———

Relax restrictions such as building height limits for projects that preserve existing mature trees on the property rather than cutting them down

Support: 64% Opposed: 29% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly seven%
32% 31% 11% 18% ———

Remove barriers to building small apartments (200 to 400 square feet)

Support: 51% Opposed: 39% Not sure:
Strongly Somewhat Somewhat Strongly ten%
22% 29% 16% 23% ———

We also saw extremely high support for collecting commercial royalties to support the creation of more affordable housing across the city:

QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree with the following approaches to investing in affordable housing in Bellevue?

Idea: Require developers of new commercial properties (retail or office) in Bellevue to pay a fee that the city would use for affordable housing

ANSWERS:

  • Agree: 69%
    • Totally agree: 38%
    • Somewhat agree: 31%
  • Disagree: 26%
    • Somewhat disagree: 11%
    • Strongly disagree: 16%
  • Not sure: 5%

Our housing-focused survey of 475 residents of the city of Bellevue was conducted in the field from Monday August 15 to Friday August 19, 2022.

The survey was conducted entirely online for the Northwest Progressive Institute and its partners by Search for change. It has a modeled margin of error of 5.2%.

Follow this link if you are interested in a detailed introduction to the survey methodology as well as information on who completed the survey.

Bellevue city skyline, seen from across Lake Washington

The Bellevue, Washington skyline seen from Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood in early fall (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

One of the highlights of this set of results for us was the broad support for townhouses, townhouses, and ADUs, which are all types of what are known as central housing missing. Opticos Design, which runs a website devoted to explaining the term, describes the missing intermediate housing this way:

These house-scale buildings fit seamlessly into existing residential neighborhoods and promote walking, local retail, and transit options. They provide solutions across a spectrum of affordability to address the mismatch between the available housing stock in the United States and changing demographics combined with the growing demand for walkability.

Drive, walk, or bike through Bellevue, and you’ll find plenty of high-rises with expensive apartments, or large single-family homes with three garages, but far less of anything in between. It appears from our investigation that there is a serious demand for missing intermediate housing in Bellevue.

I couldn’t find anything affordable in Bellevue. I have to live in my in-laws’ apartment so I can save money to buy a house,” a young man currently residing in the Newport neighborhood told us.

More than half of my income goes to rent and I know many people in similar positions,” said a West Bellevue tenant who identifies as a strong Republican. They added: “Working class people or people with lower paying white collar jobs cannot afford to live here. Not everyone works for Microsoft or Amazon.

I am considered lower middle class. On paper, I am not entitled to any assistance for my family of four. But between rent, groceries and just basic living, we’ve run out of money or we’re under,” said one tenant who lives in Bridle Trails.

We can’t expand our family because we live in an outdated 1960s little hiker,” a Lake Hills tenant told us. “Even though we both work full time and make a decent living for a couple in their thirties, we can’t find a bigger house to rent or buy. We both work full time now in a 900 square foot three bedroom home. We feel suffocated. »

“Mentally, we are paralyzed with anxiety. We are blocked.”

The strong support for the creation of a commercial levy to support affordable housing is also encouraging. Downtown Bellevue continues to grow, as evidenced by the cranes that currently form part of the city’s skyline, and the upcoming opening of Sound Transit’s East Link/Line 2 project will make Downtown, the Spring District and Bel-Red appealing to developers for decades. come.

Legally speaking, commercial fees to support housing are permitted under Washington State law if the fee is implemented in the context of density increase or other incentives. Our coalition believes that a well-calibrated policy can both encourage development and raise funds for affordable housing.

It makes sense that Bellevue would require commercial building developers to contribute to the city’s housing future. Otherwise, it will become even harder for people who work in Washington’s fifth-largest city to live there.

As we pointed out two weeks ago, an overwhelming majority of respondents to our survey (51%) say “know someone who works in Bellevue but has to commute a long way to pay rent or housing.

Overall, housing prices are beyond the means of much of the city’s working population,” a Bridle Trails landlord told us. “Too many Bellevue employees cannot afford to live in the city or even close to it.”

“First-time home buyers can’t afford to buy in Bellevue; many are forced to travel long distances to get to work (especially teachers),” said another homeowner, who lives in the Cougar Mountain/Lakemont neighborhood.

Inventory is exceptionally low for everyone, especially for those who are not wealthy. What little is available is often disconnected from daily transport and services,” a tenant who rents an apartment in the city’s downtown told us. “Car addiction is high, but the lived experience of driving here is like driving in a city with 3-4 times the population and density.”

“Lower paying local jobs are not being filled because no one can afford to live here on those wages,” one renter from northeast Bellevue told us, adding, “Who would drive/commute/transit through Bellevue area if he could find a similar paying job close to where they could afford to live?”

If Bellevue is to be an inclusive and welcoming city, it needs a housing market with affordable housing for people of all professions.

A market that is hyper-focused on providing luxury housing for high-paying tech workers and serving almost no one else is a broken market.

As mentioned, the Bellevue City Council is aware of the problem, which is why they have asked city staff to investigate solutions through Next Right Work.

Our research shows that many of these ideas are not only promising, they are extremely popular with city dwellers.

Bellevue would be well served if Council moved quickly to turn these ideas from concepts on the drawing board into adopted municipal policy.

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