More roofs over Federal Way's head are coming
June 13, 2008 · Updated 12:10 PM
By ERICA HALL
Federal Ways Department of Community Development Services recently updated the citys housing codes to reflect changes brought about by growth in the city and fluctuations in the local and regional economy.
According to the analysis, Federal Way has the land capacity to meet its housing targets, thanks to development incentives an environmental study and changes in height restrictions downtown, for example passed by the City Council over the past few years.
But updates to the housing code, approved by the council last month, identify two main issues that officials said the city still needs to address: Increasing housing density within the city, and providing adequate housing for vulnerable populations.
Of the 6,188 housing units the city will have to accommodate by 2022, officials said 20 percent should be affordable to those making less than or equal to 50 percent of the median income. Another 17 percent should be affordable to those making between 50 and 80 percent of the median income.
There are about 30,000 jobs in Federal Way, with the vast majority, 70 percent, in the retail and service industries and another 13 percent in government and education. There are about 60,000 potential workers over 18 years old, according to city estimates.
Officials say the combination of lower-wage jobs and higher-cost housing here means people who live in areas where housing costs less commute to Federal Way to work, and Federal Way residents commute somewhere else, like Seattle, Tacoma or the Eastside, to work.
To ensure low-income and special-needs housing is developed, the city might have to remove some of the barriers to locating such housing, according to officials.
Incentives to get private developers to build low-income housing include an affordable housing bonus in city center, an impact fee waiver, parking requirement reductions and transit-oriented development requirements. The city would probably need to enact more than one to kick-start enough development to accommodate growth, officials said.
They also noted the council probably would have to allocate the revenue for capital development and rent subsidies for very low-income developments.
Dini Duclos, executive director of Multi-Service Center of South King County social services agency and a member of the citys Planning Commission, said the code updates are a step in the right direction.
Duclos, who also is a candidate for City Council in this falls election, participated in the work of a regional committee that convened in 2002 to research ways to end homelessness in King County in 10 years. The Legislature used the groups Roof Over Every Bed plan as a blueprint for legislation passed this year requiring each county to develop strategies to reduce homelessness by 50 percent over 10 years.
As a member of the Planning Commission, Duclos approved Federal Ways plan to provide housing to struggling families.
The whole goal here is to get people off the street into housing and make sure the services necessary are provided to them, she said. Its a small step, but sometimes we have to take small steps to get where were going.
Updates to the citys housing code also addressed ways to increase density in already developed areas and to encourage mixed-use development in the city center. To accomplish those goals, the updates:
include a change in the definition of conventional subdivisions, basing density on gross acreage rather than lot size;
state more explicitly the citys intention to provide incentives to boost housing development in the city center core and increase density elsewhere, like allowing accessory dwelling units, duplexes and cottage developments in single-family neighborhoods; and,
reflect an interest in encouraging higher-density development along the Interstate 5 and Pacific Highway South corridor, including the city center.
To arrive at housing targets, the state Office of Financial Management projects population growth statewide, then breaks the number down by county and tells each county how much housing they need to provide to accommodate that growth.
Counties divide their housing numbers by subarea King Countys subareas are the Eastside, Seattle/Shoreline and South King County and then divide the subarea numbers by city.
In King County, the King County Growth Management Planning Council meets with city officials to determine where growth is most likely to occur and how many housing units each city needs to provide to accommodate it.
During negotiations that follow, cities point out where they cant accommodate housing in sensitive areas, for example, or in areas that are already completely built out and note any other limiting factors. At the end of the process, each city is given a maximum number of housing units it must accommodate over the next 20 years.
Housing targets today are based in part on job availability, too, said Federal Way City Councilman Eric Faison, who sits on the King County Growth Management Planning Council. Tying housing targets and density to jobs is a strategy to provide housing near work sites and reducing traffic congestion.
Because the housing code falls within the citys comprehensive plan, community development staff update it whenever there are new numbers.