Cities face housing shortage

Monroe, Bothell and Brier might not have room for thousands of people expected to move into those cities between now and 2025.

Together, the cities’ plans are falling short of housing for about 5,000 people.

Snohomish County officials flagged the three cities during a state-required review of whether local governments can meet population targets.

It’s the first time that county officials have found such a population-planning shortfall. They will have to work with the cities to solve the problem.

“This is uncharted territory,” county principal demographer Steve Toy said. “Whatever the remedy may be, we have to come up with one now.”

Forecasters expect Snohomish County’s population to top 930,000 by 2025. That’s roughly a quarter million more people.

There’s room elsewhere around the county to take up the slack, but cities are supposed to adopt land-use plans that accommodate their share of the target population.

To close the gap, the cities might have to allow taller buildings and more homes or condos or find other ways to create room for more people expected to move into the communities.

The news is in the county’s “Buildable Lands Report.” The analysis was required by the state Legislature in 1997 as a “truth in planning” requirement, something demanded by developers.

It forces governments every five years to show they are making enough room for people, houses and jobs and are not artificially limiting the land supply in urban areas.

When population numbers don’t match, cities are supposed to opt to build up, not out into rural areas.

Monroe agreed to plan for 26,590 people by 2025.

However the county says the city’s plans contain enough room for just 24,252. That falls short in housing for an estimated 2,338 people under current plans, according to the county.

Mostly, the shortfall is in the urban growth areas outside the city limits, which are controlled by Monroe officials through sewer connections.

“We’re going to meet with Snohomish County again in late July to reassess assumptions made in the report,” said Kate Galloway, Monroe senior planner.

The part of Bothell in Snohomish County is predicted to be home to 22,000 people in 2025, but the land and current plans have room for just 19,889 people, Toy said.

Bothell officials plan to dig deeper into the numbers with the county.

“We need to meet with them and figure out the reason for the deficit they’re showing,” said Bill Wiselogle, Bothell’s community development director.

The small town of Brier has about 6,500 people today and is estimated to grow to 7,790, according to the county.

Plans adopted by the city peg the number at 7,500.

Either way, the county’s analysis shows room for just 7,280 under the city’s plans. That falls short by 510 people.

“I’d like to see the report and what they have,” Brier community development director Jim Cutts said.

Cutts said the town requires bigger building lots than the county. That can mean fewer homes constructed.

Even so, the city’s business area might have room for more people if it develops as a mixture of businesses and residential housing, Cutts said.

The city might annex county lands, too, he said.

“They have asked us to annex a couple of the county islands,” Cutts said. “We’re looking at the zoning of that as well.”

Population targets

Three Snohomish County cities might fall short of their 2025 population targets, requiring a change in their plans.


2006 population: 17,751 2025 target: 26,590 Actual room for: 24,252


2006 population: 6,480 2025 target: 7,790 Actual room for: 7,280


2006 population: 15,090 (Snohomish County) 2025 target: 26,590 Actual room for: 19,889

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