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News / Clark County News

Clark County Council breaks deadlock to agree on way to distribute housing growth among cities

Decision enables cities, county to proceed with 20-year growth plan

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 7, 2024, 6:59pm

Clark County councilors managed to break a deadlock Tuesday over how to distribute projected housing growth over the next 20 years to individual cities.

The council had previously agreed on the assumption that Clark County will have 718,154 residents by 2045, an increase of nearly 39 percent over the next 20 years.

The county and state also assume that 95 percent of residents will live in urban areas while 5 percent will live in rural areas. That puts the 2045 forecast for the city of Vancouver at 266,455, Battle Ground at 37,217, Ridgefield at 27,230 and Camas at 37,080.

But county councilors had trouble agreeing on how much housing each city will need to accommodate that population growth.

Initially, county planners had proposed two options, labeled Method A and Method B. Method A distributes the growth in housing units evenly among the cities based on their relative size. Method B distributes the growth in housing units so that at the end of the 20-year period in 2045, housing stock by price is more balanced among the cities.

New requirements passed by the Legislature in the past two sessions also require counties and cities to plan for housing at different income levels or “income bands.” The goal is to ensure more affordable housing is made available in each city.

Many of the cities said they preferred Method B, while developers and groups like the Building Industry Association supported Method A. During Tuesday’s hearing, county planner Jose Alvarez said staff created a hybrid “halfway” between the two methods that should meet the needs of both sides.

The method for Camas’ allocation was slightly different. It still combines the two methods but with a 75-25 split. Because Camas tends to have higher priced, single-family homes rather than multifamily or affordable housing developments, the city lobbied to change its allocation method to a more realistic target.editor

Councilor Sue Marshall supported the hybrid model but not the exception for Camas, and she made a motion to approve the plan without it.

“It would be uniform, the 50-50 split between A and B, so that it is equitably distributed among the cities,” Marshall said.

However, Marshall’s motion was voted down 3-1.

Next came a vote to adopt the plan with the Camas exemption. That ended with a tie 2-2 vote.

Councilor Glen Yung, who voted “no” both times, said he wants the plan to be equitable, but he didn’t want to set up Camas to fail.

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“There are realities on the ground that have to be considered. Even if Camas is 100 percent focused on trying to create affordable housing at the rate the rest of the jurisdictions do, it’s just not a reality,” Yung said.

As Councilor Michelle Belkot was absent from the meeting, the council decided to carry on with the rest of the meeting agenda and revisit the vote when Belkot would possibly be available later in the day.

Chair Gary Medvigy urged the council to consider how best to move forward. He said staff had done a great job working with the cities, and now it was up to the council to reach consensus.

“We’re never going to have this perfect. We’re never going to please everyone 100 percent,” Medvigy said, adding the county is still in the early part of the comprehensive plan update, and there will be other times to address these issues.

Later, when it became clear Belkot would not be available to join the meeting remotely, the councilors revisited their earlier votes. The council finally — and unanimously — approved the staff’s hybrid recommendation.

To watch the full meeting, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.