Marysville told of need for affordable housing

MARYSVILLE – The need for more affordable housing in Marysville was the topic of a presentation to the City Council Monday.

Chris Collier, program manager of the Affordable Housing Alliance, said if you spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing, federal standards say that is too much. “You have to start to stretch” your dollars, he said.

Rents have gone up more than raises in recent years, meaning more money is needed to subsidize payments. Collier’s alliance provides that through donations from various sources.

More people are moving to the coasts from the Midwest than houses are being built. “Rent starts to take off,” he said. To fix that, incentives need to be given to keep folks there, more money needs to be spent on transportation, new housing types need to be built and/or jobs need to be moved closer to homes. “Can we do all that? Yes. But no one solution solves the problem,” Collier said.

His alliance is basically a trust fund that helps bring nonprofits and builders together for local projects. Along with financial donations, groups can donate land, in-kind labor, etc. “Flexibility is the key to this entire project,” he said.

Snohomish County gave $650,000 to the alliance last year, and it helped pay for three projects. Arlington also gave a donation.

Meanwhile, during the public comment period, a lot of time was spent on criticism of the city for not plowing more during the recent snowstorms. It created economic hardships for local businesses that could not open and for people who could not get to work.

Mayor Jon Nehring explained it was the worst such storm in 70 years, and the city does not have the manpower or equipment for that. And if it did, “Nobody would like the tax bill spent on something” that only happens that rarely.

Nehring said even he had to get a ride to work. “I was sick of it,” he said of the snow. The mayor said the main roads were kept clear. The city plows roads that, “get the most people possible in and out.”

After those roads, the city did go into some residential neighborhoods, but people didn’t always like that.

“The phone went off the hook, so we pulled back,” Nehring said. People didn’t like that the plows blocked driveways and cars with snow. “It was not a pleasant experience,” he said of the snow problems. “If we can find ways to do it differently we will.”

Also at the meeting, Jodi Hiatt, president of Maryfest, was honored as Volunteer of the Month by Nehring. “She’s right in the thick of everything that’s going on,” he said.

Hiatt, who has volunteered with Maryfest since 1999, is one of the reasons the Marysville Strawberry Festival is so highly regarded among other festivals in the Northwest, Nehring said.

“She does the hard work behind the scenes,” he added.

Among visitors, the event ranks third among Snohomish County attractions. “I couldn’t do it without this team,” she said, pointing to Maryfest members in the audience. Hiatt received the Marysville Kiwanis Club Everyday Hero award earlier in the week for the same reasons.

Also, Nehring and councilmen Mark James and Stephen Muller talked about their recent nine-day visit to China, where they visited Friendship City Friendship City is Yueqing, along with Beijing and Shanghi. “We were treated like royalty,” Muller said. James added, “The people are over-the-top nice.” Muller said some chief executive officers of large high-tech companies showed interest in coming to the states. “Some want to visit our MIC” (Manufacturing Industrial Center), Nehring said. James said he felt very safe there with police on every corner and government cameras everywhere. He also was impressed with the discipline in schools, the bullet train that went 190 miles per hour, and the Great Wall. “I was giddy like a kid,” he said.

In other news:

•Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima thanked the Marysville Globe for its story on waterfront development, saying there’s been more interest since that came out.

•Parks director Jim Ballew said 1,000 people attended the Women’s Expo last weekend at The Opera House.

•Planning director Dave Koenig said the Economic Alliance reports good news for the next two years with unemployment around 3 percent and aerospace jobs back up after being down for a while because of Boeing efficiencies.

•The council extended the agreement with Everett Gospel Mission for Marysville Extended Shelter Home services at 6032 47th Ave. NE.

•The council voted to eliminate the meeting on the third Monday and add the fire board meeting on the third Wednesday.

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