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May 9, 2021

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Clark County assessing housing needs in unincorporated urban areas

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:
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Buses make their way into the C-Tran 99th Street Station while preparing to unload passengers on Thursday morning.
Buses make their way into the C-Tran 99th Street Station while preparing to unload passengers on Thursday morning. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County is studying housing needs for unincorporated urban areas north of Vancouver.

The Housing Options Study and Action Plan will seek to identify barriers in the housing market and develop options, with several types of housing, for residents with low and moderate incomes.

About 159,000 people live within the urban growth boundary north of Vancouver, which includes Felida, Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek.

“I think that’s what the critical question here is, ‘How do we get to broader housing types for a variety of incomes?’ ” Councilor Julie Olson said at a recent Clark County Council meeting. “So I think we’ve got a great plan going forward and I’m really excited to get some information that we can take and make some good policy.”

In March, the council signed a $129,968 contract with Beaverton, Ore.-based 3J Consulting that expires Nov. 30, 2021.

The county is reviewing applications for a project advisory group to help host public events and meet 10 times to offer input on the study. Study officials plan to select 20 different types of stakeholders, including representatives from the government, nonprofit and development fields as well as advocates for the homeless, disabled, communities of color and elderly.

“Community members who are most vulnerable to rising housing costs need to be at the center and forefront of this project,” said Jacqui Kamp, a county planner.

Housing types being considered include duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, courtyard apartments and town homes. The study will include an analysis of different elements in the market and how they connect. It will take into account land supply, infrastructure priorities, permitting processes, fee structures, design standards and parking.

“Too often when we look at housing, we get stuck looking at just one portion of it,” Councilor John Blom said.

Under state law, unincorporated areas can only be subject to urban design if they’re within an urban growth boundary.

The urban unincorporated areas north of Vancouver are ideal largely because of their access to transportation infrastructure, Kamp said. She noted that, behind housing, transportation is often the second-largest expense for households.

The study is scheduled to be completed by late 2021 or early 2022.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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