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The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

The student news site of Inglemoor High School

Nordic News

Editorial: Kenmore needs affordable housing

After a series of controversies and miscommunications, Kenmore’s city council denied a crucial affordable housing project. This was a disappointing end to a project that would have housed more than 100 homeless people in desperate need of the Kenmore community’s support. 

The planning and approval of the Kenmore affordable housing project was an arduous process. The project was initially proposed as single-unit housing for Kenmore residents homeless at the time of entry and earning below the 30% median income in Kenmore, with a focus on seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities. However, as a condition for the funding from the Department of Commerce and the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, the project expanded to serve single adults with no children and an income that is 30% or less of the median income in the King County region. Community members felt that they had been misled, and they expressed concerns about the services, economy and housing values in Kenmore. 

During the Dec. 11 city council meeting, hundreds of Kenmore residents showed up to the City Council in a meeting that lasted from 7:00 p.m. until 2:45 a.m. The amount of backlash made it impossible for the city council to continue with the project. Although the community should have received more clear and timely communication about the project, affordable housing remains a necessity in Kenmore. 

In King County, there were 13,368 individuals homeless on a single night in 2022. In Kenmore, 30% of the median income is $28,800 per year while the median value of owner-occupied housing units from 2018-2022 was $803,000, according to the U.S Census Bureau.People making $28,800 wouldn’t even be approved for a loan even if they were able to find a house for $240,900, the 30% median cost of a house, or be able to pay rent on that.  Affordable housing is the most effective way to fix this issue — sheltering people should be the first step in getting them additional services, such as health care, behavioral health treatment and rehabilitation. 

Despite the community’s concerns with the location of the building, Kenmore has the means to support affordable housing. In May 2022, the Kenmore City Council selected Plymouth Housing, a supportive housing company, to build and manage the affordable apartment community in downtown Kenmore. Plymouth Housing and the city of Kenmore secured more than $40 million in funding for the project from multiple sources. Plymouth Housing has several partnerships with nonprofits such as Hopelink to provide residents with health care, behavioral health treatment and communal activities. Additionally, the housing would have included 24/7 onsite staffing. 

Other services in downtown Kenmore would have also supported the residents, such as easy access to the Kenmore Safeway, medical facilities like Evergreen Urgent Care and public transportation. Employment rates in Kenmore are also growing. From 2020 to 2021, employment in Kenmore grew at a rate of 3.39% from 12,500 to 12,900 employees. It’s unfortunate that despite the already secured funding and Kenmore’s ability to economically and socially support more than 100 homeless people, the project was still denied. 

Community members also expressed concerns that the six-story building would devalue housing prices and stand out compared to the rest of Kenmore. However, the downtown apartments look virtually the same as Plymouth’s proposed design. For example, Kenmore Lofts and Flats, located behind the Kenmore Town Square, is also a six-story building. It leads one to ask: is it really the building that’s different or the residents?

When Kenmore struck down the affordable housing project after it expanded to include homeless people from King County, it sent a message: Kenmore doesn’t want homeless people in their neighborhood because they’re stereotyped as dangerous. Residents were concerned about the affordable housing building being near the Kenmore library and the splash park outside of the Hangar, which is popular among children in the summer. They were concerned that the affordable housing project would bring people struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction downtown, increase crime and negatively impact businesses. 

There is a wide range of stigmas and stereotypes surrounding homelessness — that homeless people are unsafe, that they are criminals and that they are all drug addicts, which are harmful generalizations. Plymouth Housing would have provided the residents with adequate supportive services and security. Homelessness is not just an issue for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, and we shouldn’t have restrictions on whom we extend support to. Homelessness is not just an issue in Kenmore, it’s a complex problem that stretches across county lines, and cities need to work together so that Washington state can combat homelessness as a whole.  

When affordable housing measures are denied, governments set a precedent for future proposals and imply that affordable housing isn’t welcome. In the future, the Kenmore community and city council need to step up to support affordable housing projects from start to finish. 

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About the Contributor
Cate Bouvet (she/her), Co-Editor-in-Chief
Cate Bouvet is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Nordic News this year and is excited to lead Nordic’s staff in publishing relevant and engaging articles. In her third year on staff, she hopes to mentor new reporters and strive for objectivity. Outside of Nordic, Cate is also captain of Inglemoor’s cross-country team and volunteers at Seattle Aquarium. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, skiing, and spending time with family and friends. 

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