FILE: Bellevue City Hall

(The Center Square) – Bellevue Council unanimously agrees to move forward with the Affordable Housing Strategy by taking it to phase two.

The Affordable Housing Strategy started in 2017 with the goal of increasing the amount of housing that is affordable to people at lower and moderate income levels in Bellevue.

The project originally looked to increase developmental potential on suitable land owned by public agencies, faith-based groups or other non-profits.

Council members unanimously agreed to move to phase two on May 9 in a council meeting. Councilmember John Stokes said in the meeting that this strategy is going to need a lot of work but that the whole city of Bellevue supports it.

“This council, the staff at the City Manager’s Office [and] the community have all come together on this, so we’re talking about implementing something now that I think this city is whole-heartedly behind this,” Stokes said.

Residents of Bellevue are seeing housing and rent within the city grow exponentially.

Bellevue “has the most expensive rents in the Seattle metro, with a two-bedroom median of $2,654; the city has also seen rent growth of 21.5% over the past year, the fastest in the metro,” reported an analysis by Apartment List from the last available month of rental statistics.

In contrast, Seattle’s two-bedroom rent median was at $2,117 last month. The national average for a two-bedroom apartment sat at $1,319 according to Apartment List.

In December, 2021, the City’s Land Use Code Amendment was adopted, which provides a by-right 50% bonus with flexibility for dimensional standards of the affordable housing and allowances for duplexes and triplexes. 

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson agreed with the transition to phase two, but wants to further incentivize and include housing for other members of the community such as senior citizens.

“I would like to look at some of these properties that are not eligible and see if we can incentivize senior housing with duplexes and triplexes in those neighborhoods,” Robinson said in the meeting.

The next step of the Affordable Housing Strategy now includes site analyses, stakeholder meetings, a public open house and Planning Commission review.

However, Bellevue Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis believes it’s important to have more of an outreach to the community than was proposed in the presentation.

“I know we are just initiating this work, but going forward, I’ll be really looking for more expansive outreach than just a webpage,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Because too often residents don’t know it’s there unless they just stumble upon [the webpage], so for me, I would like to see it more robust so that we can have some really great public outreach and input on this process.”

Along with going forward on the Affordable Housing Strategy, councilmembers voted unanimously to “authorize $32,200 in funds for the Trailhead affordable housing project through A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). The total cost split among ARCH partner cities is $250,000. The project will be a five-unit complex serving community members who make less than 30% of the Area Median Income,” according to a statement from the city of Bellevue.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.