County Council to consider proposal for high-density, permanently affordable housing project in Friday Harbor
Posted September 11, 2022 at 8:06 am by Jeff Arnim
The San Juan County Council is set to review a proposal that calls for the development of up to 42 units of low- and moderate-income rental housing in downtown Friday Harbor.
A draft of a Request for Qualifications related to a 1.75-acre parcel of County-owned land at the corner of Argyle Ave. and Malcom St. has been prepared by the County Department of Health & Community Services for the Council’s review at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
“San Juan County seeks an experienced developer to partner with and enter into a long term, low- to no-cost lease agreement for a 1.75-acre parcel,” according to the RFQ. “The site presents a unique opportunity for a large-scale affordable housing development serving a variety of income levels, primarily households that earn at or below 80 percent of area median income.”
The Friday Harbor Town Council has agreed to allow density of up to 24 units per acre on the property, which means that up to 42 housing units are possible if the site is developed to maximum capacity. The draft RFQ calls for up to 50 percent of the new units to be affordable for moderate-income households earning between 80 and 115 percent of AMI. The other 50 percent of the units must be distributed between low income (80 percent AMI or less), very low income (50 percent AMI or less), and extremely low income (30 percent AMI or less) levels.
80 percent AMI for a family of four in San Juan County is roughly $70,000 per year.
“The County is prepared to make significant financial contributions to the project to offset infrastructure costs,” the draft RFQ says. It also commits the County to providing frontage improvements on the site, including sidewalks, street trees, landscaping, curbs, gutters, and street lamps.
In addition, the draft RFQ details design requirements and preferred approaches to energy efficiency. The County seeks a development that “maintains the character and design of the historic Argyle neighborhood in Friday Harbor while maximizing allowable density for long-term affordable housing rental units … As feasible, [the developer should] provide solar arrays and energy-efficient buildings, appliances, and low-flow or water-efficient plumbing fixtures. This will not only help conserve our water resources; it will lower utility costs, which will help maintain long-term affordability.”
Should the County move forward with the project, the draft RFQ outlines a three-step developer selection process. County staff would first evaluate submissions and their adherence to the stated project goals, priorities, and strategies. The Housing Advisory Committee would review the staff reports and present their recommendations to the Council. The Council then has the option to accept or reject the HAC’s recommendations, or make modifications to the scope and terms of the project.
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