The Time to Act is Now to Increase Affordable Housing in Bremerton
The housing shortage remains a large problem in many communities, which is causing rents to spike upwards, including in Bremerton. Recently, the City of Bremerton proposed changing rules for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to help create more housing to meet the need across the City. On December 16, the Bremerton City Council will decide whether to move forward on the proposal to allow more ADUs to meet the housing affordability crisis.
“The goal for the City’s proposal is to allow more ADUs so they help fill the gap in accessible and affordable housing,” said Mayor Wheeler. “We are faced with a shortage of residences in our City, and we can’t wait years for new homes and apartments to come online to address the growing demand. Even during the pandemic, we must respond to address this crisis. ADUs are one part of the solution that we can use to scale up now and make housing more available across Bremerton. There are enough studies on ADUs that show they can meet some housing needs. Housing affordability hangs in the balance if the City Council doesn’t immediately take action at its meeting on Wednesday. The time to act is now to increase affordable housing in Bremerton.”
Sometimes called “backyard cottages,” ADUs are a second, smaller dwelling that can be built on the same lot as a single-family house. While they’ve existed for decades, they’ve been getting a second look as a way to add additional housing. Tacoma and Puyallup are two cities that have already revised their requirements for accessory dwelling units as part of a strategy to support and increase housing inventory.
The City currently has regulations to allow ADUs but we have found that the regulations contain impediments to the creation of ADUs. We have heard from our citizens that the regulations are overly onerous. The updated ADU ordinance includes making changes to requirements for parking, design, and ownership requirements, and also includes allowing the option to develop up to two ADUs on a property. What doesn't change is that ADUs would still have to meet the same high level health and safety standards required for other construction in Bremerton. We believe that it is important for the City Council to make these changes to the ADU regulations without delay so that we have more housing options in our community.
The focus on revising ADUs rules is part of the City’s goal to respond to current and future affordable housing needs. In fact, Bremerton was part of an affordable housing needs assessment with Kitsap County that reviewed the housing shortage and a continuing future housing crunch in our area. The report outlines the importance of providing new housing for Bremerton and the local region. (See the joint assessment published in March 2020 here: https://bit.ly/2JWHkSP).
ADUs have undergone study by federal, state and non-profit groups as an option to increase housing in communities. Here are just some of the interesting findings from reports and surveys:
- ADUs generate rental income for homeowners to cover their mortgage and the dwellings seem to be as attractive to renters as apartment complexes.
- ADUs add fewer cars to neighborhoods than other forms of housing, including single family residences (compared against new development).
- ADUs provide free and ultra-low rent options for family, friends and elderly loved ones.
- ADUs provide young people an option for entry level housing and allow families to expand.
- ADUs tend to be built using fewer materials and have less energy demand than standard housing, making them a greener building solution. They can also be inserted as infill in many areas where many apartments cannot.
- These units generally have owners living on the property, whether its required or not to be on site.
- ADUs are cheaper to build than other kinds of housing, since there is no added land cost.
- ADUs can be designed to blend into the surrounding architecture, preserving character of neighborhoods.
- ADUs help maintain housing for low- and middle-income residents and retain diversity in communities for people who might otherwise be forced out due to rising home and rental prices.
“The more housing that is available, the more it tends to increase affordability,” said Mayor Wheeler. “Right now, more of our citizens can’t afford rent or to stay in other types of residences. We really have to address this issue with some solutions like ADUs. The time to act is now. I encourage residents to share their public comments with the City Council on ADUs at their meeting on December 16.”
To attend and provide public comment on ADUs at the Bremerton City Council meeting on December 16, 2020, please visit the City's website for login details. Please find meeting packet information on proposed ADU changes at https://bit.ly/2II93WU.