Snohomish considers strategies for more housing

SNOHOMISH —  Six strategies to add a wider housing variety were vetted by the City Council last week, plus a few gave a request to look into one more.
City planners advocated to:
• Implement House Bill 1337, an upcoming state mandate requiring two Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in single-family lots. It will be mandated in 2025.
• Adding more areas to be upzoned as Medium Density Residential. This zoning allows 18 dwelling units per acre. One target area for rezone could be the city’s north side, where a new sewer trunkline is coming in.
• Using voluntary density bonuses, building height bonuses and more.
• Encouraging big, shared, public recreational spaces in planned residential developments. A homeowners’ association, which often is part of these types of developments, could not lock down the park if the developer takes the incentive.
• Expedited permit reviews, which is already being done.
• Offering waivers on impact fees for projects that meet the city’s development goals. The thought is reducing costs could help more affordable housing pencil out.
A few City Council members favor exploring one more: To task the city’s Community Navigator to get involved in tenant rights and protections as an advocate.
The strategy talks are because a goal is to encourage new, small residential buildings, such as triplexes and townhouses. Snohomish wants to mix them in without losing the city’s character. These types of residences often cost less than individual homes.
A recent commissioned study developed 14 options.
The city planning department did not recommend a few of the ideas, such as to recalculate zoning densities.
It also does not recommend placing a Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) on more parts of town. This was quickly skipped over during a presentation last week. This exemption waives property taxes for the developer, and the costs of the waived taxes are borne by the rest of the public. A proposal for an MFTE in the Midtown District along Avenue D split the council last year and died in a 4-3 vote.