Island Insights: HRB Public Policy Specialist Maggie Rich Shares how housing action plan helps island

Earlier this year, I accepted an invitation by Chamber President and CEO Stefan Goldby to serve as an at-large member of the Governmental Affairs Committee formed this spring. The decision to get involved was an obvious one.

As Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB) public policy specialist, I lead advocacy strategy for our organization around affordable housing. And housing affordability is a top priority of the Chamber, whose members reckon with the effects of housing costs on hiring and retaining workers, many of whom cannot afford to live on the island and instead manage difficult commutes in order to find housing they can afford.


by Maggie Rich

HRB and the Chamber have a long history of partnership, and this involvement is yet another way for us to share expertise and amplify the work of our organizations. After multiple attempts by the city over many years to address the housing needs of our community, after various taskforces, committees, reports, and consultants, City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Housing Action Plan (HAP) on June 27, 2023.

This document, commissioned by the city and written by ECONorthwest, is exhaustive, rooted in a deep analysis of current and anticipated housing needs on Bainbridge Island and rich with policy ideas and strategies for partnership and resource allocation. It is not a step-by-step manual, nor is it intended for wholesale implementation. Rather, city staff, City Council, and Planning Commission must select among the various actions and coordinate their implementation in a way that makes good use of planning processes now underway.

City Council was not only presented with the motion to adopt the HAP, but also the opportunity to adopt additional recommendations made by Planning Commission intended to facilitate and ensure an effective and transparent implementation process. Planning Commission recommended three specific actions, which City Council also voted unanimously to adopt:

  1. Direct staff to prepare a bi-annual scorecard that evaluates the city’s progress towards meeting the strategies and actions of the Housing Action Plan.
  2. Direct staff to prepare a memo for the Winslow Subarea Planning process and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee that identifies the specific actions within the Housing Action Plan that these plans can address.
  3. Direct staff to prepare memo for the Planning Commission and the City Council that identifies specific actions that the Planning Commission can initiate with the City Council’s direction that would not fall under the Comprehensive Planning process or the Subarea Planning process.

It is critical that HRB, the Chamber, and all other community stakeholders remain engaged, advocate for their priorities, and hold the city accountable for meaningful changes to municipal code and its approach to housing development and anti-displacement measures.

We at HRB celebrated not only the adoption of the Housing Action Plan, but also the care and precision of these three technical recommendations that suggest that HAP implementation will be strategic. We at HRB also hope to see that creativity, collaboration, and discipline it’s going to take for the city to follow through on its promise to once and for all tackle a housing crisis that threatens to undermine so much of what we hold dear on Bainbridge.


To learn more about the ongoing work and current projects of Housing Resources Bainbridge please head over to the HRB webpage