Expect plenty of different views in final Issues That Matter forums on housing, homelessness

Sno-Isle Libraries’ Issues That Matter community discussion series wraps up 2019 with two forums on housing issues June 3 and 4.

Issues That Matter forums are meant to encourage community conversations on high-profile topics. The events are free and open to the public.

The June 3 Issues That Matter forum is Housing and Homelessness: Where Will We All Live? from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Edmonds Library. The facilitator will be Teresa Wippel, founder and publisher of My Edmonds News.

Forum panelists are Mindy Woods, formerly homeless advocate; Karin Ellis, consultant with Kone Consulting; and Aaron Holm, co-CEO of Blokable.

Woods said she will speak about how quickly homelessness can happen to anybody.

“All it takes is one death in the family, an illness or accident, a job loss, identity theft or major financial blow, despite your current income, resources or education,” Woods said. “How do I know? Because it happened to me, twice, in this area.”

Ellis says that rising housing costs and stagnant wages pressure household finances and put people at increased risk of displacement and homelessness.

“The most reliable data source estimates 230 Edmonds residents experiencing homelessness, indicating homelessness is more hidden than visible at this time,” she said.

The June 4 Issues That Matter forum is Housing: Where Will We All Live? From 6:30-8 p.m. at the Oak Harbor Library. The facilitator will be Christine Cribb, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Forum panelists are Steve Powers, Oak Harbor development services director; Robin Amadon, housing development director for the Low Income Housing Institute; Joanne Pelant, Island County housing resource coordinator; Meredith Penny, Island County Planning & Community Development long-range planner; and Scott Thompson, managing director of Wright’s Crossing LLC.

Powers plans to discuss how the Growth Management Act influences housing from the city’s perspective and he will briefly touch on how the city and county must coordinate their respective planning under the GMA. He will also discuss how city zoning and development regulations provide for a range of housing choices, intended to serve the needs of the entire community.

Amadon notes that growth and the need for housing will continue throughout the state.

“Communities can feel squeezed to respond and some communities see this as an opportunity,” Amadon said. “There are certainly many opinions that range from no change to creative change. The proposed Whidbey LIHI project hopes to be an example of the latter — creative change that responds legally to what your zoning allows, while developing something worthy of support.”

Penny plans to summarize the Growth Management Act and state law for planning in Island County, review Island County’s Housing Element update and outline key housing insights, and describe actions the county is currently working on to implement that plan.

Pelant plans to address affordable housing.

“What is affordable housing and who qualifies?” she said. “What is our affordable housing inventory in Island County?”

Thompson believes only the market will solve the housing crisis in Island County, and only if the local governments help with the regulatory process.

“We don’t need houses, we need obtainable land in the city to build communities on,” Thompson said.

Accommodations for people with disabilities are available on request. Please contact the library in the community where the forum is being held in advance of the event.

Issues That Matter funding is provided by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.