Lays out possible strategies for more development
The revamped Winthrop Housing Action Plan (HAP) now up for review conveys a sense of urgency about the need for accessible and affordable housing in the town — along with an outline of how to address the problem with practical actions.
The Winthrop Planning Commission and staff recently completed a re-working of the (HAP) that was submitted to the town earlier this year. A draft of the new version available for public review. It comes with a list of recommendations in a number of areas including zoning and development regulations.
The original HAP was prepared by for the town by the La Conner-based firm Beckwith Consulting Group and funded by a state grant. Beckwith was hired last year to come up with Housing Action Plans for both Winthrop and Twisp within the context of the greater Methow Valley’s housing market conditions. The plans were funded by a $50,000 state grant that was shared by the two towns.
The Twisp Town Council was critical of that town’s final HAP as presented. They found it lacked specific, practical recommendations that could be applied to the town’s housing needs.
Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp had said earlier that she and Winthrop Planning Commission members had the same concerns about the Winthrop HAP, which is similar in many respects to the Twisp version. Culp and the Planning Commission decided to go through the HAP and distill it before presentation to the public and Town Council. The resulting document clocks in at 33 pages, compared to the much larger HAP as originally submitted.
“Following review of the Housing Action Plan and appendices produced by Beckwith Consulting, the Winthrop Planning Commission determined the plan did not adequately capture the nuance and context of local housing needs,” Culp said in a press release. She and Planning Commissioner Simon Windell “utilized information from the Beckwith documents and the results of public input to produce a Housing Action Plan that is supplemented with additional research and grounded in the local context,” the release said.
Review of the earlier HAP turned up “several issues with the data and approach that reduced our satisfaction with the results,” including out-of-date or inaccurate data especially related to the dramatic shifts in the housing market since 2020, according to the revised HAP.
“The overall narrative of housing dynamics in the Methow Valley was missing, and therefore corresponding proposed implementations lacked local context,” the HAP says. “Given the need for better data and a locally grounded narrative, the Winthrop Planning Commission decided to develop our own Housing Action Plan … supplemented with our own research, and grounded in the local context.”
Needs and strategies
The HAP cites a litany of data behind the need for new housing, and soon. “We need more housing for valley residents … We cannot emphasize the urgency of this need enough,” the HAP says. “We must have an adequate and timely supply of affordable homes to enable the community to replace these workers.”
The HAP’s research found that to meet the current full-time resident housing needs in 2023, the valley would need to add 436 housing units.
“To meet today’s demand, while setting ourselves up for success, it’s important that, when new housing stock is added, some portion is permanently preserved, with a requirement for local residency,” the HAP says.
High-priority recommendations for encouraging housing development include updating zoning in business districts to allow for a blend of long-term residential and commercial uses; lowering minimum size requirements for homes including ADUs; developing guidelines for “tiny homes;” establishing deed restrictions to preserve homes for local residential use; and further liming overnight rentals permitted within the town.
The town could consider incentives for developers and explore ways to generate revenues to support affordable housing development, the HAP says.
Anyone interested is invited to review the draft HAP. The plan may be obtained by contacting Town Hall or at the Town of Winthrop’s website: www.townofwinthrop.com/planning. Comments regarding the plan are welcome at email@example.com, and should be submitted by Nov. 15.