NCW — Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Chelan and Leavenworth are among 52 cities benefiting from $4 million in grants awarded by the state Department of Commerce to address affordable housing.

The grants are provided under a new state law that calls for cities planning under the Growth Management Act to increase residential building capacity. Cities are working to add more housing in a greater variety of types, and to streamline development.

Leavenworth received $45,800 for a housing action plan.

Three other local cities received money for code changes:

  • Wenatchee, $17,000
  • East Wenatchee, $15,920
  • Chelan, $30,000

The city of Wenatchee this month adopted housing code changes that updated development and design standards and allowed uses for the different zones. Community Development Director Glen DeVries said the grant will help pay for the city’s consultant.

“The majority of funds that we spent on our housing code update were already completed, but we were very appreciative of being able to take advantage of that grant,” he said, adding, “It’s a really good program that the Legislature approved and Commerce is administering, providing these funds to local jurisdictions to expand housing opportunities.”

A few options provided under the grants for city code changes:

  • Authorizing a duplex, triplex or courtyard apartment on each parcel in single-family zones
  • Allowing duplexes on corner lots in single-family zones
  • Authorizing cluster zoning, in which density is determined for an entire area rather than on a lot-by-lot-basis, and lot size averaging, in which individual lot sizes can vary if the average meets the maximum density, in single-family zones
  • Permitting cities to allow for up to nine lots in a short plat

Lori Barnett, community development director for East Wenatchee, said the grant money will go toward a consultant and public outreach.

She said the city has been working for years to tackle the housing crisis, including reductions in minimum lot size and setbacks and increases in height limitations.

“We have a lot of East Wenatchee that was originally platted at one-acre lots,” she said. “Over the years, those have been short-platted into smaller pieces, but it’s been kind of difficult for them to do that and to meet our code requirements for access. One of those things that we need to look at is making it a little bit easier to do in-fill development. Inside the urban area, that’s where the sewer is, so that’s really where your density should be.”

Barnett said she’d like to see multifamily housing integrated throughout the city instead of just being concentrated in one area.

One challenge is balancing high density with aesthetics and ensuring new buildings mesh with the neighborhood.

“Here in Chelan, that’s a concern,” said Craig Gildroy, the city’s planning director. “We want to keep our character of our agricultural valley intact, so how do we increase density and still have our character intact and our neighborhoods not impacted?”

He said the city has been looking at how alternate housing types could fit in existing neighborhoods. Grant money will go toward hiring a consultant and engaging the community in the discussion.

The process will likely take most of next year, Gildroy said.

Leavenworth will also hire a consultant for its housing action plan, said Development Services Manager Lilith Vespier. One consideration will be how the 200-unit complex Weidner Apartment Homes is planning will affect the city’s housing stock.

“We’ll be doing a review of income levels within the city and maybe the surrounding area and then looking at housing options available at those income levels,” Vespier said. “Then it requires development of strategies to increase the supply of housing that’s needed at the various income levels. Nationally that has been the workforce housing, and the city’s previous documents have indicated we’re short on workforce housing. So we’ll see what this housing action plan clarifies for us, if it’s anything more than that.”

She said the city will also analyze its comprehensive plan, population and employment trends, and how to avoid displacing lower-income residents.

Bridget Mire: 665-1179

mire@wenatcheeworld.com or

on Twitter @bridget_mire