The Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Task force (HART) will collaboratively develop a five-year plan to meet the housing needs of county residents. (Snohomish County)

The Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Task force (HART) will collaboratively develop a five-year plan to meet the housing needs of county residents. (Snohomish County)

Housing task force seeks solutions for affordability crisis

County, city and tribal leaders hope to identify policy and regulatory changes by year’s end.

EVERETT — Snohomish County has formed a task force to explore ways to bolster the area’s stock of affordable housing.

The partnership with local cities and tribal governments aims to identify possible changes to regulations and policies, among other options.

“The lack of affordable housing across the region is holding back our economy and contributing to congestion as people continue to move further away from job centers,” County Executive Dave Somers said, in a prepared statement. “The Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Task Force will bring elected officials together to devise an action plan for addressing this challenge. We must find incentives for increasing housing stock across the spectrum.”

Somers first announced the housing initiative in March, during an annual speech.

The group is known as HART for short. The leaders who are joining it hope to draft a five-year plan for actions to take through 2050. A report detailing those goals is expected by the end of the year.

In addition to housing for middle- and low-income families, the scope of the work is to include subsidized housing, alternative-housing models, land use and redevelopment.

Climbing costs have pushed home ownership and rents beyond the means of many of the area’s families.

In Snohomish County, the median sales price for houses and condos hit $479,000 in April, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Everett’s median rent was $1,350 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,680 for a two-bedroom, according to statistics that Apartment List released earlier this year. The nationwide online apartment marketplace claimed that Everett’s rates topped even Seattle’s.

County councilmembers have endorsed the executive’s housing effort.

Councilman Nate Nehring, a Republican who represents the northern part of the county, said he hopes to “identify and address local government barriers to the construction of additional affordable housing.”

Councilwoman Stephanie Wright, a Democrat who represents southwestern areas of the county, said, “Anyone who struggles to pay rent or is at risk of becoming homeless knows that we have a problem.”

County leaders are especially interested in hearing from developers, nonprofits and landlords.

The group can be contacted through the email address HART@snoco.org. Meetings will be open to the public.

More info: snohomishcountywa.gov/HART.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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