Olympia and Thurston County officials want your thoughts on plans to improve housing access

Officials in Thurston County want the public’s help in mapping out ways to improve access to housing and make housing more plentiful, and they are seeking comment on a draft of a local housing assessment..

According to a news release from the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce, the City of Olympia and Thurston County, staff started seeking public comment on the Fair Housing Assessment and a needs and housing market assessment last week. The public comment period will continue until April 14.

Comments can be emailed to cdbg@ci.olympia.wa.us; mailed to Olympia City Hall at P.O. Box 1967, Olympia WA 98507-1967; dropped off at City Hall at 601 Fourth Ave E, Olympia; or given by phone by calling CDBG Program Specialist Anastasia Everett at 360-753-8277.

The Fair Housing Assessment reviews the barriers people face when trying to access housing in Olympia and Thurston County. It was kicked off last fall by the county and city, and the public can download a draft of the assessment on the city’s Engage Olympia website.

According to the draft assessment, more than 600 people responded to housing surveys. A majority said they see a lack of range in home sizes as a problem, especially for low-income households. And discrimination based on income was the most reported barrier people said they face. Those factors are pushing low-income residents out of their homes and the community.

According to the news release, the Consolidated Plan Needs Assessment and Housing Market Summary will be used to break down how funds will be used to support low- and moderate-income households with housing, economic development and more. It’s part of both jurisdictions’ strategic plan updates, which have to be made every five years to qualify for state housing grants.

There’s also a draft of a Community Needs Assessment and Housing Market Summary that’s being used to inform how funds from Community Development Block Grants could support affordable housing, economic development, public facilities and more. The draft of the assessment can be found on the city’s CDBG website.

Some of the goals identified by the housing assessments and the county’s 5-year Homeless Crisis Response Plan include creating 300 permanent supportive housing units by 2024, and strengthening tax exemptions to create 400 more units of multi-family affordable housing.

Officials also have identified the need to reduce housing costs and increase the overall housing supply, as well as increase the variety of housing options to ensure those who are already in the community don’t have to leave to find housing.

There will be two public hearings on the assessments, one March 28 and the other April 18, the first during the regular Olympia City Council meeting, and the second during a county Board of Commissioners meeting.