City council opposes housing bill’s impacts on the Island

In a recent letter to a pair of Legislative District 41 state representatives, Mercer Island Mayor Salim Nice said that the city remains committed to community and regional sustainable and effective growth management.

Within the letter, which was unanimously approved by city council at its Feb. 7 meeting to be sent to representatives Tana Senn and My-Linh Thai, council urges the reps to vote no on HB (Housing Bill) 1110 — which is currently being considered by the state legislature — due to concerns about the legislation’s unintended consequences and unfunded impacts, according to a city press release. “HB 1110 would result in innumerable demands on the city’s infrastructure including water, sewer and stormwater systems. While the bill is being positioned as an effort to increase affordable housing, HB 1110 will almost exclusively result in market-rate housing,” the city added.

If passed, according to the city release, the bill would authorize the development of at least four units on all residential lots in Mercer Island, and up to six units if two are affordable or within a half-mile of transit or a community amenity (schools and public parks).

In part, the letter reads: “We understand that there is a lack of housing at all levels, and we are committed to working on solutions to address this issue. These efforts are best done at the local level and in collaboration with regional and statewide stakeholders, under the guidance of the Growth Management Act — a comprehensive planning framework. Washington is a diverse state, in many ways, and a one size fits all mandate is simply unlikely to yield positive results for Washingtonians.”

According to Senn in the city release: “Washingtonians need affordable housing, and while HB 1110 should be commended on its goal to increase housing availability, unfortunately, it falls short in addressing affordability. However, it is likely to change as stakeholders passionately weigh in from all sides. It is also essential to note that this bill is just one part of a more significant effort to address the housing crisis, including around addressing the infrastructure needs of cities. While no bill is perfect, we must increase affordable homes for Washington families. As the bill progresses, I hope it will better balance the need for more housing with affordability and community control.”

“I’m searching for other solutions better suited for Mercer Island than HB 1110, which is in the House and not in the Senate,” said Legislative District 41 state Sen. Lisa Wellman in the release. “There may be more useful legislation in the Senate right now.”

Thai did not comment in the city’s release and the Reporter reached out to her for a response.