Mayor: Rezoning golf course would help address housing

By Alex Frick
Posted 7/10/24



The subject of affordable housing issues in Port Townsend has played out in recent weeks in the “Letters to the Editor” pages, as residents wrote in with concern …

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Mayor: Rezoning golf course would help address housing




The subject of affordable housing issues in Port Townsend has played out in recent weeks in the “Letters to the Editor” pages, as residents wrote in with concern about a change in zoning that would allow housing to be built near the golf course, that seemed to be flying below radar. That prompted Mayor David Faber to write a letter, published in the July 3 edition of The Leader, in which he emphasized the immediate need for more affordable housing. The Leader met with Faber on Sunday, July 7, to learn more about his views.

The mayor addressed the proposed zoning changes at Port Townsend Golf Park at 1948 Blaine St., the reasoning behind them, as well as big-picture issues, such as long-established zoning models. Building affordable housing at the golf course would require a zoning change.  "The zoning doesn't change what's there overnight. That's an important point here. To get ourselves ready to one day do a housing project there, we have to change the underlying zoning. That's what is being talked about in terms of the comp plan process," he said. While some layout changes to the course will be necessary to accommodate housing, it would remain a nine-hole golf course, he added.

Affordable housing is proving a vexing problem for governments around the country, but the state of Washington has been particularly hard-hit. In 2017, the University of Washington College of Built Environments ranked Jefferson County as the second-least affordable county in Washington, based on medium home prices compared to wages. On June 27, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released a report identifying Washington State as  the country's fifth most expensive state against fair market rent. The data contained within that report showed that out of 39 counties in Washington, Jefferson County has the fourth fewest number of rental units available.

Faber said the reports confirm a lot of the experience of people he speaks with daily. The reports reflect “multiple problems, but they're all kind of rooted back to the same thing, which is we have far too few available housing units for the number of people who want to be here.” There is a low number of available units “and the prices are high."

Port Townsend is part of the bigger systemic crisis, but it also brings its own unique challenges. "The ramifications are huge and multifarious,” he said. “We have an aging population here. We're one of the oldest communities in the country. And as we age, we tend to retire, get out of the workforce, and then need other people to provide services. Those services are the jobs that we would expect that people who are younger would be able to step in and fill. But if they don't have a place to live locally, they can’t step in and fill.”

That creates a gap in the market which drives up prices, he added. "It reaches out from the housing insecurity in multiple directions. And it makes the community weaker," he said.

"The reason the golf course has been a target was that it's very central, city-owned land," Faber said. "There were studies that looked at the feasibility of doing housing there. The golf course could change and shift a little bit and still operate as a nine-hole golf course, and we can potentially put in a pretty significant number of housing units." He added that the focus on the golf course for housing development is with lower-income families in mind. "The golf course location is so perfect, because if it's going to be for lower-income people, it's also directly across the street from the food bank and other public services and the YMCA with childcare services. It's walking distance to the co-op in Uptown. Then we're not facilitating sprawl," said Faber.

When asked about other areas of housing opportunity, Faber pointed to Uptown as an area that could provide relief, but housing development