Our community's efforts and progress

What have we already done to improve housing affordability in Anacortes? Quite a bit, actually!

Reforming Housing Policy

Comprehensive Plan

In 2016, assisted by a broad-based community advisory committee that worked for two years with many public meetings and a community-wide visioning process, the City adopted a completely new Comprehensive Plan that embraced new housing policies and laid the essential groundwork for subsequent regulation changes.

Development Regulations

In 2019, the City adopted a completely new zoning code that allowed new types of housing, such as cottage housing and townhouses, and made multifamily development easier and the approval process more predictable.

Housing Action Plan

In January 2023, the City of Anacortes adopted a housing action plan (Resolution 3104) to review the City's progress in achieving our housing objectives so far, and to define strategies and actions to promote greater housing diversity, affordability, and access to opportunity for residents of all income levels. Council adopted the plan as a "menu" of options, not as a roadmap to adoption of all of those options.

Homeless Housing Plan

State law (RCW 43.185C.160) designates counties as the unit of local government responsible for creating a Homeless Housing Plan, which Skagit County adopted in 2019. Anacortes is considering development of its own Homeless Housing Plan specific to our city.

Cutting Red Tape

Anacortes has eliminated conditional use permit requirements for “middle housing.” Where allowed, all forms of housing are outright permitted in all residential zones.

Implementing New ADU Legislation

Anacortes is looking at implementing the new ADU requirements from the 2023 legislative session ahead of the state-mandated 2025 deadline. Already, Anacortes exempts ADUs from impact fees and has repealed owner-occupancy requirements.

Fee Exemptions

The City of Anacortes offers 80% exemption from impact fees (80% is the limit under state law) and 100% exemption from connection fees for new income-limited housing developments that guarantee affordability to those making less than 80% of the area median income (AMI).

Low-Income Housing

Anacortes has existing subsidized low-income housing providers, and is working to add more and make it easier and less expensive for those providers to develop new housing. Existing providers include:

Entity Address Subsidized Units Program Income Range
Anacortes Family Center Multiple Locations 38 Multiple Programs
Anacortes Housing Authority Multiple Locations 190 Multiple Programs
Anacortes Manor 1110 24th Street 35 USDA RD PBS8 Elderly/Disabled
Harborview 1110 27th Court 8 USDA RD Tax Credit & PBS8 Families 0-50 or 60% AMI
Silverwood 1103 29th Street 23 USDA RD Elderly/Disabled 0-50 or 60% AMI
Bayside 1106 24th Street 19 USDA RD Families
Total __

See more details about existing providers on our reference page. For comparison, Anacortes has about 17,832 residents and 7,734 households (2021 US Census data).

City-Assisted Projects

Affordable Housing Sales Tax

In 2020, the City Council placed a 1/10 of 1% sales tax measure on the ballot to help finance affordable housing, available to households making less than 60% of area median income at rents less than 30% of that income. Under state law at the time, voter approval of the tax also garned Anacortes a small portion of the existing state sales tax that it now gets to retain for that effort. The measure passed with 55% of the vote.

Skagit County and the cities of Burlington, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley later adopted their own version of the tax when the State Legislature changed the law to allow cities and counties to adopt the tax without a vote of the people. City Councilmember Ryan Walters described the entire process in this MRSC article.

The measure promised (and is delivering!) three projects:

Birch Tree Village Townhouses

These five townhouses demonstrate the viability of small townhouse-style development in Anacortes's commercial core.

  • Anacortes Housing Authority
  • Five two-bedroom townhouses (1147-1170 sf)
  • Five one-car attached garages (286 sf)
  • $2.5 million (prevailing wage)

The Landing Apartments

This four-story apartment building includes a ground-floor childcare center and provides other supportive services. In addition to the housing sales tax, the City provided an $500k of ARPA funding.

  • Anacortes Family Center
  • 3 studio apartments (390 sf)
  • 12 one-bedroom apartments (409-534 sf)
  • 6 two-bedroom apartments (514-579 sf)
  • $6.2 million

Olson Building

This project will renovate the historic Olson Building, providing housing while preserving ground-floor retail spaces.

  • Anacortes Housing Authority
  • 10-15 units
  • Expected $3.5-$4 million
photo by Steve Halverson

Skagit Habitat for Humanity

Skagit Habitat for Humanity has built 40 homes in Skagit County that have benefited 83 families. With the consent of the City Council, Habitat will soon launch its first Anacortes project—five 1200-sf three-bedroom cottages on city-owned vacant property (parcel P58211, approximately 16,000 sf) on the north side of West 5th Street between Kansas and Minnesota Avenues.

Elevation Facing West 5th Street
Habitat Cottages Elevation View from W 5th Street
See the site plan Habitat Cottages Site Plan

For more information, watch the Habitat presentation to City Council (YouTube) or see the packet materials (PDF) about the project.

Human Services

Housing Affordability and Community Services Committee

Spearheaded by then-councilmember Liz Lovelett, the City Council's Housing Affordability and Community Services committee has been at work since 2016 to develop strategies to improve housing affordability and identify gaps in human services in Anacortes.

Improving Access to Childcare

Affordable and available childcare is linked to our housing crisis. With many families requiring dual incomes in order to afford housing, childcare is essential to putting both parents to work. That's why our community is working hard to improve access to childcare:

  • The Anacortes City Council has eliminated the conditional use permit requirement for daycare in the City's most dense residential zone (R4) to enable development of new neighborhood daycare centers without the costs and uncertainty of an onerous permit process that didn't add value.
  • The Anacortes Family Center will provide daycare in the ground floor of its new Landing apartment building to open in late 2023.
  • The Samish Nation remodeled their Longhouse Preschool in 2020 to provide better for our community's Head Start program.
  • The Samish Nation is also developing a new early learning center on the site of the old D Ave Nursery.

Keeping People in their Homes

Community Action of Skagit, headquartered in Mount Vernon, is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that offers a variety of services to help struggling families stay in their homes, and with funding from the regional support network, Community Action has recently launched a street outreach and recovery navigator program specifcally to help the homeless. For 2023, the Anacortes City Council approved funding to help Community Action open a physical office in Anacortes in space provided by the Housing Authority.