Opinion: Kitsap County Comprehensive Plan Update


In April, the Kitsap Sun shed light on the impact of rising housing costs on low and moderate income families in Kitsap County.  They also highlighted the large increase in homelessness among our K-12 and Olympic College student populations.

Perhaps it’s finally time to consider the impact of land use policies on our local population.

For the past twenty years of the Washington State Growth Act (GMA), the philosophy has been to emphasize centering our population in the urban areas. On the surface, there would appear to be a variety benefits.

Historically, younger and lower income workers have purchased or built homes in rural areas where land was less expensive.  Since 1996 under GMA,  rural lands have been zoned at one house per 5, 10 or 20 acres.

We are now at the point where most of the available rural parcels have been developed.  Most lots inside Urban Growth Areas are already developed.  The next move is to build vertically.

High rise development generally means acquiring existing homes and removing them to make way for new buildings.  Additionally, high rise construction is typically built of cement and other expensive materials.  For a developer to make a profit, higher rents are needed.

We are now seeing outside developers acquiring existing multi-unit residential Bremerton properties, evicting the tenants and up-scaling the properties, again with increased rents.

Often these higher rents exceed the income qualifications for lower income tenants.  As a 40 year landlord of lower income properties in Bremerton, I am now seeing new tenants with jobs displacing subsidized rent tenants as units turn over.

So long as GMA’s restrictions on property development outside Urban Growth Area boundaries remain, rents and housing prices will continue to climb.  Kitsap County has seen repeated reversals of attempts to increase our Urban Growth Area Boundaries with successful appeals to the Growth Management Hearings Board.  Too often politics seems over-ride the needs of our citizenry.

                                              Michael Gustavson

Presented at the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners Meeting Apr 11, 2016


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