Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Council to consider housing plan

Staff Writer | May 24, 2023 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — Mattawa City Council members will vote June 1 on a plan designed to help address growth and housing availability. Council members held a public hearing on the draft housing action plan Thursday; there was no public comment.

Rachelle Bradley of SCJ Alliance, the city’s planner, reviewed the plan for the council, and said it had been updated based on previous comments from residents. Information on the plan was reviewed at a March public meeting and at a couple of community events.

“We added (a new section) based on feedback, which is to implement a citywide code enforcement program,” Bradley told council members.

Bradley said in March the approval of the housing action plan is the first phase of a two-phase project. Implementation is the second phase, and that will include updates to city ordinances, she said.

The plan recommends hiring a code enforcement officer. City residents expressed concern during the review process about people living in buildings not intended as residences, as well as properties that were not adequately maintained, the draft report said.

The plan recommends updates to Mattawa’s zoning and development regulations to make it easier to build different types of housing in town. That could include accessory dwelling units, townhouses and houses of 1,200 square feet or smaller, called “cottage housing.” All of those are options, Bradley said, but the council doesn’t have to allow them.

Simplifying off-street parking regulations also is recommended in the plan, along with updating the city’s zoning map. There’s a recommendation for establishing a housing action committee to work with builders, public and private organizations to coordinate housing development.

City officials should consider establishing a tax exemption program for development of multifamily housing, and establish regulations that would encourage development of affordable housing, the draft report said.

Studies made as part of the plan indicated Mattawa needs to update its water and sewer systems to accommodate new growth, the plan said. The first step in that process would be an update to the city’s capital facilities and water system plans. Along with that, the city should review its fee schedule.

The plan recommends adopting regulations to help protect renters, such as advance notice of proposed rent increases.

The city can make it easier to build additional affordable housing, the report said, and it recommended some ways to do that. City officials should review rules for lot size minimums and housing density in residential zones, and look at the regulations for conditional use permits, the report said, and the city also should encourage rent-to-own programs.

Bradley emphasized Thursday that the final rules and regulations governing housing are up to the council.

“The actions are just proposed. They’re not setting the city in stone for anything,” she said.

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

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