In the early 1980s, demographics in the suburban communities of Washington state's East King County began to shift. The population was aging, with the proportion of seniors increasing from 7 percent to 12.5 percent over the previous two decades. Greater employment opportunities were attracting new residents, bringing the total suburban workforce from 94,000 in 1980, to roughly 290,000 by the year 2000.
In order to meet the housing needs of their changing populations, three cities joined forces with the King County government to create A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). ARCH's goal was to increase the capacity of these suburban cities to efficiently and effectively collaborate in communitywide efforts to create and sustain affordable housing. Since its inception in 1993, ARCH membership has increased by another twelve cities in East King County.
ARCH supports its member cities in a variety of ways. First, ARCH established a Housing Trust Fund, a pool of city resources earmarked for affordable housing creation and preservation, which it allocates to jurisdictions with the greatest need. By way of its Housing Trust Fund, ARCH has increased the ability of high-need jurisdictions to provide affordable housing in the short-term, while also ensuring a long-term funding balance, which will eventually bring affordable housing to all member communities. Since 1993, over $17 million in city resources have passed through the Trust Fund, resulting in over 1,900 units of affordable housing for King County families, homeless, seniors, and special needs residents. Funds from the Housing Trust have also gone to maintain Section 8 housing, resulting in the preservation of 440 units over the last ten years. In addition to providing a mechanism for efficient resource allocation, ARCH also plays an active role in the management of affordable housing sites, with ARCH staff overseeing site planning and marketing efforts, and well as assuming responsibility for screening housing applicants.
In addition, ARCH assists cities in the development of housing-related land use policies and regulations. ARCH fosters the development of affordable senior housing by encouraging cities to allow for higher density accommodations in aging population areas. ARCH also encourages workforce housing availability by mediating negotiations between cities and the local transit agency, successfully waiving fees that made it possible to construct affordable units near public transportation. ARCH has also assumed responsibility for community outreach efforts, working on behalf of its members to inform the public of affordable housing opportunities.
Through the creation of an organization with a unique capacity to empower local communities to provide affordable housing for their residents, ARCH member cities now serve as a models of collaborative efforts to address affordable housing shortages in suburban areas. Representatives of member cities have been invited to regional housing conferences in Arizona, Illinois, and Oregon to explain the structure and achievements of ARCH, and assist in the replication of similar efforts in jurisdictions throughout the country.
*This program was the winner of the special Fannie Mae Foundation Innovations Award in Affordable Housing.