Income thresholds matter if goal is to house lowest-income


To the Editor:
On Feb. 20th the Snohomish City Council agreed to a draft set of incentives for developers to build more multi-family apartments. The incentives include waiving impact fees for parks and traffic and handing out $600,000 to pay for water/sewer/meter connection fees. (The $600,000 will come from the 0.1% sales tax already collected and dedicated to low-income folks.)
In reality, the council is leaving those very low-income folks out in the cold. Here’s an illustrative example:
A developer builds on Avenue D/Bickford a 5-story, 100 unit mid-rise. If he designates only 10 units for “affordable” housing, he qualifies for all the incentives. But here’s the unfairness to lower-income folks. The council defines the threshold for “affordable” units as for those folks earning $60,919/year or less. So when the landlord/developer gets dozens of applicants for those 10 units, guess whom he will select? Those earning $55,000-$60,000/year or those earning $20,000-$40,000/year?
The City just reported the average apartment market rate rent in Snohomish is $1,500/month. So someone earning $60,000/year and renting a $1,500/month apartment is not “rent cost-burdened”; defined as paying more than 30% of his income for rent.
 In the final public hearing on March 5th, the council still has the option to lower the threshold from $60,919 to $40,865 to increase the opportunity for low-income folks to gain one of those “affordable” units. Otherwise the council is only enriching for-profit developers with no benefit for truly low-income folks.        

Morgan Davis