Issaquah City Council works to bring affordable housing to fruition

Affordable housing is one step closer to being a reality in Issaquah.

Affordable housing is one step closer to being a reality in Issaquah.

The City Council approved two agenda bills at its meeting Tuesday night aimed at promoting affordable housing in the area.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Councilman Josh Schaer said. “It sends the right message. This council is serious about affordable housing.”

In their first move, the council voted to waive fees for staff reviews, building permits, plan checks and MDRT building permit fees on projects that are for affordable housing.

Originally the agenda bill was just geared for the Issaquah Highlands Block 9 development area, but after several discussions, the Services and Operations Committee decided to expand the waivers to be citywide.

Currently the only known development to be interested in taking advantage of the fee waivers is in the Highlands, where the estimated value of the waivers is more than $370,000. The funding to replace the money lost in the fees will come from the general fund.

Councilman Fred Butler suggested that the funding come from the Talus Affordable Housing Fund, which has about $500,000 that was given to the city by Talus in lieu of completing previously agreed upon low income houses. However, his “friendly amendment” was voted down.

“Let’s save that earmark for a new affordable housing project that is not already envisioned,” Councilman John Rittenhouse said. “It seems sad to reimburse the city.”

After the council voted down Butler’s amendment, he told everyone they did the right thing.

The council also passed a second piece of legislation that gave Habitat for Humanity the city’s rights to a portion of Division 95 in the Highlands. The move gives Habitat the right to enter into negotiations for the purchase and sale of the property with Port Blakely.

The new Habitat development is proposed to consist of 10 two- to three-bedroom homes that will be available for low income housing. Habitat East King County Executive Director Tom Granger, said that all Habitat applicants must be at 50 percent of median income or less, significantly more than the city’s requirement of 80 percent.

“Applicants must be 50 percent of median income, have a real need and give 500 hours of sweat equity,” Granger said. Sweat equity is hours worked on the homes.

For more information on Habitat, visit

Kyra Low can be reached at or 391-0363, ext. 5052.