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May 26, 2022

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Clark County housing advisory group outlines options

Recommendations will be reviewed by planning commission, Clark County Council

By , Columbian staff writer

Tuesday was the county Housing Options Study and Action Plan advisory group’s final meeting before making its recommendations to the Clark County Council and planning commission. The group has identified 51 near- and long-term recommendations, each of which are divided into four categories: housing options, affordable housing, programs and partnerships, and advocacy.

A draft of the recommendations was released Nov. 30, which was followed by a public meeting Dec. 14 to encourage citizen feedback.

“As much as we tried to make it clear that (long-term recommendations) are not a lower priority, they just take longer to implement, some people might see them as less of priority,” group member Steve Faust, of 3J Consulting, noted during Tuesday’s meeting.

Near-term recommendations for housing options include reducing lot size requirements; creating a new subdivision option for smaller, single-family homes; changing minimum density requirements; changing parking for housing in low- and medium-density zones; and expanding housing types allowed in low- and medium-residential zones.

There are also suggestions to revise open space and recreation area requirements for larger multifamily projects and to allow RV parks within the community commercial zone.

“I think we need as many proposals as possible. I think we’re going to be facing a lot of pushback with people that want to defend the status quo, who believe the only answer is going to be open up additional land for larger inventory,” group member Ron Barca said during the meeting.

One set of recommendations is specific to Highway 99, which would exempt some affordable housing projects from certain design standards and would apply new development standards instead.

To increase affordable housing, the group suggests a comprehensive review of impact fees, a tax increment financing tool and developmental standards bonuses. One example would be a density bonus of 100 percent in high-density residential zones in exchange for developments that have at least 40 percent of apartments affordable to people at 60 percent of the area median income or below.

For partnerships and programs, the advisory group suggested the county allow concurrent reviews of land-use and engineering applications, identify an affordable housing contact to provide education and help to developers, and hold workshops with property owners and developers.

The public advisory group was formed to identify housing challenges within the unincorporated Vancouver Urban Growth Area and look for ways to encourage housing development affordable to a variety of incomes. Its 20 members represent the city of Vancouver, Clark County, public and private housing developers, nonprofits, homeless advocates, neighborhood associations and others.

“Some of the feedback we’ve received from the community is consistent with our conversations,” county Councilor Julie Olson said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I think we’ve got some great things to start with. Our group here is pretty on target with what our community needs.”

Faust noted of those answering a housing needs questionnaire, 65 percent identified more housing choices as very important. Also, 58 percent said having affordable housing was very important.

After the recommendations are reviewed by the planning commission and county council, the council will direct staff on which recommendations to implement. The council is expected to review the recommendations in March or April.

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