State Commerce Director visits East Jefferson Habitat

By Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 11/22/23


A Habitat for Humanity development in Port Townsend received a visit from state-level officials on Friday, Nov. 17, a day after millions of dollars in grants were announced.

The …

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State Commerce Director visits East Jefferson Habitat



A Habitat for Humanity development in Port Townsend received a visit from state-level officials on Friday, Nov. 17, a day after millions of dollars in grants were announced.

The grants are intended to help meet statewide needs for affordable housing across all income levels.

Washington State Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong and state Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) joined Jamie Maciejewski, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, at the six-home “Landes North” development. Four of the homes are two-bedroom, and two are three-bedroom, ranging from approximately 900 to 1,200 square feet.

East Jefferson Habitat Board Vice President Brian Cullin touted Landes North as a “poster child for successful affordable housing” in the area and as “permanently affordable, multifamily housing that integrates really well with the community.”

On Thurs., Nov. 16, the Department of Commerce announced nearly $3 million for 54 cities across 16 Washington counties to support the adoption of local comprehensive plan policies and zoning codes to allow more middle housing in residential neighborhoods in turn.

Maciejewski described Landes North as being built on a “September to September” timeline of roughly a year, and acknowledged that East Jefferson Habitat has been forced to turn away some qualified housing applicants. She hopes to serve some of those folks in successive rounds of housing developments, especially as Habitat recycles some of its homes.

Tharinger credited East Jefferson Habitat with serving not only Port Townsend and the Tri-Area, but also areas such as Port Hadlock, while Maciejewski noted that Landes North’s residents range from healthcare to construction workers, and “a lot of our local workforce” is below 80 percent of the average median Income, or AMI.

Robert Collins serves as director of construction, land and strategy for East Jefferson Habitat. He pointed out how local developments such as Landes North have been made possible by cooperation with not only the city of Port Townsend, but also those properties’ neighbors, which has enabled Habitat to increase its housing density.

“A lot of the same folks who initially said they couldn’t stand duplexes are looking at what got built, and saying they want something like that now,” Collins said.

Tharinger emphasized that the local community is not only on the Olympic Peninsula, but also on the Quimper Peninsula, isolating it twice over, so those who are part of that relatively rarefied community “have got to collaborate with each other to get stuff done.”

Emma Bolin, director of planning and community development for the City of Port Townsend, credited East Jefferson Habitat with providing the impetus for the city to “test-drive” methods of re-platting and revising regulations, in order to increase subdivisions and housing density.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro praised everyone present for their contributions to “rethinking residential capacity,” even as he acknowledged that “we all still have a lot of work that we know we need to do,” in a 7-square-mile town with nearly 90 miles of roads.

“We’re the most unaffordable city in the state for housing, ahead of even Mercer Island,” Mauro said. “And Jefferson is the second-most unaffordable county in the state, after San Juan.”

Fong—in his current position for six months—cited affordable housing as an issue of primary importance to every community in the state, and pledged that the Department of Commerce would seek to promote and empower affordable housing with as many different resources as possible, given how many aspects of the department affect housing.

“If there are gaps in the system, that’s why I’m out here,” Fong said. “We’re looking at a million more homes that need to be available across the state within the next 20 years, many of them for people who are 80 percent or even 60 percent under the AMI. Whether it’s surplussing property or land banking, we need more tools in our toolbox. And our solutions need to be flexible, because Seattle’s vision for its community is going to be very different from yours.”