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October 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Boardinghouses and Bellevue’s affordable housing shortage
A few irate neighbors in Bellevue don’t like pop-up boardinghouses on their street. The Bellevue City Council’s response so far is to consider an emergency ordinance to cap home occupancy to four unrelated roommates, according to this Monday Seattle Times news report.
They should think carefully about this. If giant, gargantuan homes and visions of “Animal House”-style neighbors is the problem, then city leaders ought to first consider revising design standards before these buildings go up in the first place.
Limiting the number of people who can live under one roof could aggravate the Eastside’s shortage of affordable housing. To understand the problem, click on this link to see a helpful infographic by the Housing Development Consortium, a King County advocacy organization.
The boardinghouse boom is a response to local demand. Bellevue College is converting to a four-year school. Students and low-to-moderate-income workers in the area cannot afford to live in the current housing market. Those who do often end up paying more than the standard 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities.
Last week, I blogged about Sightline Institute Founder Alan Durning’s e-book outlining three tangible ideas to expand housing for all income levels in urban settings. Durning says it makes sense for the Bellevue City Council to scrutinize building sizes in relation to surrounding homes, but limiting roommates is another form of “discrimination.”
“They’re community college students,” Durning said emphatically over the phone, describing some of the inhabitants of these controversial dwellings. “And we’re going to make it illegal for them to live in the neighborhood.”
Kelly Rider, policy director for the Housing Development Consortium, says her organization takes no position on the Bellevue City Council’s roommate ordinance.
However, she sees a general problem arising when affordable housing is not broadly addressed through incentive zoning or proper planning.
“We need to figure out where density should be,” she says. When that discussion doesn’t occur, high-density housing tends to show up in places that anger neighbors, including the Bellevue residents featured in Monday’s story and neighbors of micro-apartments in Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
So what’s the long-term vision for affordable housing in the Eastside? Good question for the Bellevue City Council. Their next meeting on this issue is scheduled Nov. 3.