Newly elected council member moved out of Issaquah, gave up seat due to affordable housing

Affordable housing — or rather, the lack thereof in Issaquah — is one of the most hot-button issues at City Council meetings.

And ironically, it is this very issue that will prevent a recently-elected council member from beginning his term on the council and therefore helping to find a solution to the affordable housing dilemma.

Issaquah attorney Justin Walsh was elected to Council Position 3 in November’s general election after running unopposed for the seat, which is being vacated by current Councilmember Eileen Barber.

However, the city is once again looking for someone to fill the seat; during the campaign, Walsh moved outside of Issaquah city limits to North Bend, rendering him ineligible to hold a city government position.

Walsh called the decision to move “heart-wrenching.”

“I’m very sad that I won’t be able to assume that seat and help out the city that I love,” he said.

Walsh explained that he found his new house Sept. 10 and closed Oct. 19, two dates that are after the window in which a candidate can withdraw from the election.

Since the withdrawal deadline had passed, Walsh’s name remained on the ballot. He did alert voters on his campaign’s Facebook page that he would no longer be able to fill the position, though it had little bearing on the election results for the noncompetitive race.

“It is with great sadness that I announce I will not be able to assume the seat being vacated by Councilmember Eileen Barber,” he wrote. “Beginning October 21, 2017, I will no longer be living within the city limits for the City of Issaquah.”

According to state law, the position cannot be filled until it becomes vacant, which will occur on Jan. 1, 2018. The council then has 90 days to fill the position, or the task will be designated to King County.

Walsh stated that a major factor in his decision to move was Issaquah’s lack of affordable housing — an issue to which he said he would have worked to find a solution while on council.

“Unfortunately the housing prices in Issaquah are not what I could afford,” Walsh told the Reporter.

He observed that it’s a “sign of the times when an attorney cannot afford the housing prices in the town in which he works,” and expressed sympathy for all of the families struggling to afford housing in Issaquah.

“Median housing prices in the City of Issaquah have risen to over $700,000. To afford this average home requires an income of upwards of $150,000, and that is with no debt,” he wrote in his Oct. 18 Facebook post. “To purchase this average home usually requires a substantial down payment, usually of twenty percent. This puts the dream of home ownership out of the reach of most of our City’s residents.”

In comparison, the average home value in North Bend is $517,000, according to Zillow.

Walsh still plans to maintain his law firm in Issaquah and “stay active in the region.”

The newly-appointed council member will serve through the November 2019 general election. The person elected to the seat in that election will fill out the remaining two years of the term.

To apply for the open council position, visit http://issaquahwa.gov/FormCenter/City-Council-8/City-Council-Vacancy-2018-189. Applications are due at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9.

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