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Why study housing in Leavenworth?

The City of Leavenworth offers a mix of housing options. However, as the city has grown its housing has not been able to meet the housing needs of all income levels.

The City Council has been examining how to best meet housing need for several years. The Housing Task force was established in 2016 and a Housing Needs Assessment was conducted in 2017. The Council Housing Committee was established in 2018 and diligently reviewed the city’s regulations with the Planning Commission, resulting in several code amendments in 2019.

The City has made several changes to support additional housing for all economic levels including permitting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), zero lot line development, updated Planned Development regulations and added two new funding support tools for affordable housing. These changes have resulted in more housing. 

But the city continues to struggle with insufficient housing options, rising housing costs, and limited housing availability. To meet these needs, we applied and were awarded a Housing Action Plan (HAP) grant through the Washington State Department of Commerce.

Other items that the Planning Commission has started to review include:

  • Low-income affordable housing incentives (not on the HAP recommendation table)
  • Driveway and on-site parking requirements (prioritized item #3)
  • Setbacks, parking, access and lot coverage requirements (prioritized item #4)
  • Multiple curb cuts per dwelling (prioritized item #6)
  • Explore triplexes (prioritized item #8) and cottage housing (prioritized item #5)
  • Remaining HAP recommendations pending
  • Other items which could be considered under 2020 State Law options

Why is the City considering these housing and code related changes?

The Housing Action Plan provides a comprehensive explanation of why the City is considering housing and code changes. Linked below are reference documents that highlight key parts of the “why” and help provide a summary of the needs for Leavenworth.

 Does the City have infrastructure for this development?

Yes, we do. The planning documents linked below indicate that the city has the infrastructure or is planning adequately for the infrastructure to provide housing.

Why infill development, such as duplexes and increased options for infill with reduced lot sizes?

Infill reduces the pressure on rural and resource lands by placing housing and services in urban areas. When development occurs in urban areas there is less auto-oriented sprawl, more opportunity for transit. For Leavenworth, the Planning Commission is recommending a change from 3 and 4 units per acre to 5 units per acre (R 8 zoning district). In addition to more efficient land use, this reduces the amount of impervious surface per person which helps with water management and reduces potential areas of pollution.

(all slides provided by Thurston County presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGzhLvNXpYA)

Infill reduces the pressure on rural and resource lands by placing housing and services in urban areas. When development occurs in urban areas there is less auto-oriented sprawl, more opportunity for transit. For Leavenworth, the Planning Commission is recommending a change from 3 and 4 units per acre to 5 units per acre (R 8 zoning district). In addition to more efficient land use, this reduces the amount of impervious surface per person which helps with water management and reduces potential areas of pollution.

To be more sustainable with more livable spaces, infill is needed. Not just for the city of Leavenworth but for the upper valley and the County, infill in urban areas is key to preserving the lands and resources we enjoy today for future.

Infill housing is key component of fill Leavenworth’s housing needs. A variety of housing types will result (over time) with a variety of housing options for all residents.

Housing for all

We all play a vital role in our community, and that means we need housing for all types of people who live and work in our City.
  • A diversity of incomes means a diverse pool of people working jobs needed for a range of community needs. Every community needs people who fill jobs, such as janitors, baristas, bus drivers, sales clerks, grocery store workers, city parks crew, and so many more. When these workers live in town, they don’t need to be adding to the highway traffic, they are more connected to the community they work in/for, and they can be more responsive to work needs.
  • A diversity of demographics means that you have young and old working and cross training for jobs. When young people return to a community after college or jobs away, they come back with new ideas, skills and views of the world that keep a community growing.
  • A diversity of cultures brings fullness to a community. In Leavenworth, the Bavarian Theme brought a new culture to the historic railroad and forestry community. This culture provided ways for the community to survive and grow. If the new culture and people had not found housing in Leavenworth then it would be a very different town today. In the same manner, continuing to welcome a diverse culture to Leavenworth through our visitors and residents will provide new and necessary ways for the community to continue to thrive.
  • Providing homes for a diverse community means welcoming new people (and returning residents and family members).
  • Providing homes for a diverse community means a range of housing types. It means small homes on small lots, townhomes, mansions, duplexes, apartments, cottage housing, large lot homes, senior housing, tiny homes, it means all housing types.
  • Providing homes for a diverse community does not mean taking way someone home or requiring all future development to be on small lots or a specific type of housing.
  • There are concerns about gentrification (loss of older homes to new expensive homes). These concerns are amplified when there is a reduced inventory of similar vacant lots. Many of Leavenworth homes are on small lots; the proposed R 8 designation/zone will encourage new smaller lots which will support the retention of older homes.
  • Changes are happening today, especially as the price of land and housing have increased while the area of growth has not. This puts pressure on existing vacant land (infill) and older houses to redevelopment with new housing.
  • Leavenworth is made up of mixed neighborhoods – single-family, duplex, senior housing, and more. Walk around the Mountain Meadows (senior housing) area in the middle of a single-family/duplex neighborhood; World Mark is high density (mix of short-term rentals and private owners) between single-family/duplex neighborhood and the river; Alpen Blick and the Garten Haus provide a mix of density and senior housing near single-family/duplex, and multi-family.
  • Providing homes for a diverse community in existing neighborhoods will change the appearance of some neighborhoods but not all neighborhoods.
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