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Development, housing to be subject of Mattawa workshop

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | March 18, 2023 9:10 AM

MATTAWA — Mattawa residents are being invited to review some of the ideas for regulating development and adding housing at a workshop scheduled for 6 p.m. March 30 at the Mattawa City Hall, 521 Government Rd.

Spanish translation will be provided.

Mattawa City Council members decided they wanted some public input while reviewing a proposed “housing action plan” for the city at the regular council meeting Thursday. Council members spent much of the last two meetings looking over the plan and found proposals they liked as well as some that raised concern.

Council member Brian Berghout said developing more housing can benefit Mattawa if it’s properly regulated.

“Development doesn’t mean the wild, wild west,” Berghout said. “It means organized code enforcement and design standards. It’s not me putting up 25 pup tents in my backyard and saying they’re for rent.”

Rachelle Bradley of SCJ Alliance, the city’s planner, said the housing action plan is the first phase of a longer-term project to update the city’s development standards and comprehensive plan.

The draft housing action plan recommends making more accommodation for multi-family housing in neighborhoods that traditionally have single-family housing only. That could include options like duplexes and triplexes, townhouses and auxiliary dwelling units. Another option could include dividing large residential lots to allow for the construction of a second house.

Council member Fabiola Hernandez said she was concerned about that possibility, and the potential for abuse. Some Mattawa residents she has talked to have told her they would add rental housing to their lots, or remodel single-family homes into multi-family rentals.

“We are talking about affordable housing. For me, we are not making this affordable,” she said. “We are making the problem bigger than it is right now.”

Hernandez cited what she thought were cases of substandard housing in the Mattawa area, although not in town.

“How many travel trailers (properties) have in little spaces, with families living in those little spaces,” she said.

Council member Sun Hwang said he was concerned about parking in neighborhoods with multi-family housing. Council member Tony Acosta asked about the proposal to reduce lot size, and what that might mean for the city’s infrastructure. He cited the example of the house owned by his parents.

“We could build two houses on that (lot),” he said. “So I’m thinking about our infrastructure because we would be on the hook to provide services for them, because it’s already within the city. How would that work with our current infrastructure plan?”

Bradley said there are some limits in the city’s existing water and sewer systems. City officials are working on plans to upgrade those systems, she said, but those limitations have to be kept in mind.

Berghout said more housing would make it less likely that substandard dwellings would be rented. Increasing supply also would affect the price of rental housing, he said.

“We have to have affordable housing,” he said. “And it’s not just people who are here, it’s people who want to move here. We need the housing stock.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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