Housing gets pricey in Kitsap

Despite the optimistic growth projected for Kitsap County, the lack of affordable housing could make such expansion a dicey, difficult process.

Several residents confronted the Kitsap County commissioners with their concerns about the topic at a meeting Monday night. The meeting responded to recommendations made by the multi-jurisdictional Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council (KRCC) as part of the statewide Growth Management Act (GMA).

“In 1995, the average cost of a family home in Kitsap County was $135,000,” said William Palmer, a Port Orchard-based consultant. “Now, it’s well over $200,000. This well exceeds the rate of inflation, and the county hasn’t addressed critical issues with their policies. It is the restrictive land use policies that have forced up the cost of housing.”

Among the complaints voiced at Monday’s meeting:

l Lots are too expensive. If the standard equation is that a lot costs one-fifth of a house and lots cost $60,000, few can afford to live here.

l Zoning needs to be re-examined in order to accommodate growth.

l Builders need to take some of the burden to beef up the infrastructure required to accommodate new growth.

And while the lack of affordable housing qualifies as a general problem that affects a broad range of people, residents addressed the county with more specific concerns. Former Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who currently works at the YWCA, said the agency’s emergency shelter turns away almost 300 people in some months.

“There is a desperate need in the county for rental housing,” she said. “We need to address the building of homes for people who can’t afford to purchase.”

Craig Jensen, a Bremerton general contractor, said lot cost was the most restrictive factor in his business. “I can build ‘affordable housing,’ but people won’t want to live there,” he said.

Quipped Silverdale CPA Randy Biegenwald, “If this continues, the homebuilder’s association will have to change its name to the home remodeler’s association.”

After the meeting, Department of Community Development Director Kamuron Gurol said the KRCC recommendations — which were adopted by the commission — contained only “housekeeping changes” to previous policy. Those who testified so passionately were “philosophically opposed to the GMA,” Gurol said.

North Kitsap Commissioner Chris Endresen said there are no easy answers to this question and suggested the county’s strategy will probably include an “affordable housing summit” to occur in the first few months of 2004.

In any case, the approved measure is part of a continuing discussion and does not represent any resolution to the problem.

As Gurol noted, “We need to achieve some kind of balance between private property rights and responsible economic development.”

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