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Kent says city's lack of housing variety squeezing residents' options

A lack of housing options means that Kent has either large new homes or older apartments, but not enough in between.

KENT, Wash. — The City of Kent has drafted a housing options plan to address growth over the next 20 years. The plan says Kent has a large need for more housing variety, including townhomes and new apartments.

A study completed in 2020 said Kent needs 5,999 new housing units by 2040 to keep up with demand. 

"The options within South King County are pretty limited to either larger single-family homes, they tend to be on cul de sacs, they tend to be pretty big, or apartments and those tend to be primarily built in the 1980s and 1990s. There's not as much new apartment construction down in South King County," said City of Kent, Long Range Planning Manager, Hayley Bonsteel. 

Bonsteel said the 99-page, draft plan helps create a framework to address a variety of needs for the next two decades. Once adopted, the plan will help city leaders play an active role in future developments. 

"We don't build our own housing. And that really means that we need to partner with those who do to make sure that the outcomes that happen in our community reflect our needs," said Bonsteel. 

The study said the housing most needed is for those who make 100% more than the median income. 

"Whether it's at the airport or in the Kent Valley at some of our large manufacturing companies, those folks make enough to be able to afford a higher monthly cost than they can actually find within, you know, let's say the commuting distance they want to make," Bonsteel said. 

She said this leads to something called "down-renting" and it's something she said is happening in much of South King County. 

"What that means is that there's a squeeze on the housing, where if we don't build more of these higher-end units,  those folks will continue to kind of down-rent and push everybody down into lower-end housing than they might otherwise be able to afford," Bonsteel said. 

Ultimately, the study shows the city needs variety and the housing plan works to address that. 

"What I hope that means for residents, that in the future they may see more duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, more of these smaller, multifamily (homes) as compared to just large apartments or just large single-family homes," said Bonsteel. 

The drafted plan will be presented to Council on May 10 and is expected to be adopted in June 2021. 

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