Housing is a topic that affects everyone and every business. Ensuring access to housing is one of the fundamental functions of effective planning. In North Bend, 26% of all households spend more than 30% of their income on housing-related costs. Spending more than this proportion of income on housing defines a household as cost burdened according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. This issue is especially pronounced among North Bend renter households, who are more likely than homeowners to spend more than 50% of their income on housing-related costs.
The state of Washington conducted a survey and Housing Costs, Homelessness, and overall cost of living are the most important problems facing Washington. In the survey, four times more people rated the cost of housing as a top issue compared to transportation and traffic. Additionally, 76% of the 6,000 respondents said they were directly impacted or knew someone directly impacted by the cost and availability of housing, and 49% said it was difficult or very difficult to find affordable housing. Two-thirds of respondents believed their communities need more diverse and affordable types of housing. Digging deeper, 58% thought this should include “middle housing,” such as triplexes, in single-family zones if the new units met the zone’s standards.
Renters and owners with mortgages in North Bend face different levels of cost burden: according to the 2023 North Bend Housing Needs assessment, while 47% of renters are cost burdened, only 16% of homeowners are. This was evident in the Housing Survey as well, where renters report more difficulty affording and finding suitable housing options. While 4.3% of renter respondents did not pay their last month’s rent on time, only 1.2% of homeowners didn’t pay their mortgage on time. Similarly, homeowners report higher confidence that they will be able to pay upcoming housing costs on time than renters. While 93% of homeowners report high confidence, they will be able to pay their next mortgage on time, only 87% of renters are highly confident they will be able to pay their next rent payment. Twice as many renters indicated moderate confidence in their ability to pay rent on time than homeowners indicated just moderate confidence to pay their mortgages on time.
Quality, affordable housing is critical to North Bend’s economic health as well as meeting the housing needs of current and future residents and families. As home and rental prices continue to climb in North Bend and across the Puget Sound region, the need for affordable housing to support local businesses and their workers has become a priority for North Bend’s public and private sector leaders.
Two important policies approved in 2023 to support the development of more affordable housing are the Economic Development and Housing action plans. These plans share North Bend’s mission, to create a “highly livable town” with a variety of housing types and price ranges. Moreover, the plans include strategies to encourage affordable housing that support businesses and provide critical amenities for North Bend residents.
In addition to these policies, North Bend has implemented several initiatives to bring more affordable housing to the community.
This is just a start to address the affordable housing needs of local businesses and their workers. The city will continue to explore innovative best practices and utilize and expand available tools to increase affordable housing to achieve the Council’s goal of a “highly livable” community.
In late 2021, the City of North Bend applied for grant funding allocated by the Washington State Department of Commerce and funded through the Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill (E2SHB) 1923. The bill was designed to grant fund municipal research to increase the urban residential capacity in cities by evaluating local housing needs and determining actionable steps municipalities can take to improve housing stock, diversity, and affordability to proactively plan for housing that meets current and future needs.
The City participated in a Snoqualmie Valley Housing Needs Assessment Report which was issued January 10, 2023, a North Bend Housing Needs Assessment which was finalized March 2023, and a community survey in January 2023, with over 500 participants. Interviews, stakeholder meetings and a school drawing contest were also part of the public outreach efforts.
The Planning Commission and City Council held a Workstudy on November 1, 2022, and between December 2022 and May 2023 the Planning Commission discussed the work at four meetings, two of which were Public Hearings.
The 2023 Housing Action Plan (HAP) is a tool kit for increasing housing options and affordability in the community to help achieve its vision of a more vibrant, inclusive, and equitable future. While North Bend seeks to make meaningful changes in the housing market, addressing the broad range of North Bend’s housing needs will also need the continued participation of North Bend’s housing and human service partners. Therefore, the Housing Action Plan complements the City’s collaborations, partnerships, commitments, and plans.
The HAP has broken into two strategies; Adapting to Community Needs and Meeting Housing Needs. Each strategy has multiple goals and actions. Below is a summary.
Strategy A: Adapting to Community Needs (Cultivate governance that provides for North Bend’s future housing, infrastructure, aesthetics, and community needs.)
Strategy B: Meeting Housing Needs. (Ensure that housing matches the needs of the current and future North Bend community.)
At the February 15, 2023 North Bend Elementary "Your Home" drawing contest award ceremony, Betsy, a student in Ms. Mitchell’s second grade class, was celebrated as a winner. Betsy was one of 37 second graders at NBE who participated. City staff, civil engineering firm Blueline Group, and Principal Stephanie Shepherd asked students to draw their visions of an ideal home, concentrating on aspects they find most important. Students described their ideal homes as safe, comfortable, happy, and loving, among others.
“We don’t all have the same context of family,” Principal Planner Mike McCarty shared with students. “Some of us have big families and need more room, and some of us have smaller families.”
Betsy’s winning reflection on "Home" has been incorporated into the City’s Housing Action Plan (HAP).