State Grants Support Deeper Look at Housing Policy and Climate Vulnerability

These plans will help inform the Burien 2044 major update to the Comprehensive Plan.

Thanks to a grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce, we have been working on more specific strategies related to housing and climate change vulnerability. These plans will help inform the Burien 2044 major update to the Comprehensive Plan.

Evaluating Burien’s Housing Policy

Burien has been a relatively affordable place to live. However, it is in danger of losing affordability and vibrancy, according to a recent study conducted by the City’s planning staff that evaluated our current housing policy and racially disparate impacts of displacement and exclusion.

The study found that most of Burien is at high risk of housing displacement based on demographic data, risks of gentrification, and accelerating housing costs. The study made several recommendations on ways to update Burien’s housing policy to prevent displacement, including encouraging more “middle housing”.

Middle housing is a term that planners use to describe housing such as backyard cottages, fourplexes, townhomes, and small apartment buildings of five to ten units. It plays an important role in helping Burien to remain an affordable place to live.

During their last session, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1110. This significant piece of legislation allows multi-family buildings to be built in single-family neighborhoods.

Currently, most middle housing types are technically allowed in a small area of Burien, but existing zoning makes it difficult and expensive to build it, according to the study.

Burien’s population is expected to grow by 7,500 people by the year 2044. To ensure there is enough housing and jobs to accommodate for the projected population growth, we must grow the amount of housing in our community. Middle housing can help us achieve that goal while still maintaining parks and green open spaces in our community.

We will be tackling updates to our zoning code in the coming years. Learn more in the Burien Housing Policy Evaluation: Racially Disparate Impacts, Displacement, and Exclusion in Housing

Climate Vulnerability Index: How vulnerable are Burien’s residents and ecosystems to the effects of climate change?

The Burien City Council adopted its first Climate Action Plan in 2021. That plan, guided by community voice and regional efforts, provides a blueprint for our community to build a city more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

This year, the City of Burien planning team began to examine Burien’s vulnerability to climate change. This work resulted in the Burien Climate Vulnerability Index, which will guide investments in infrastructure, land use planning, zoning, urban tree planning, and parks and green space investments.

An index is a calculation used to summarize multiple sets of data into one measurement and allows for an “apples-to-apples” comparison of different data. The index defines climate vulnerability as the combination of exposure to a changing climate, the inherent sensitivity of people or environments to a changing climate, and the capacity of the community and place to cope with the impacts of a changing climate. The index adds over 30 indicators of climate vulnerability and identifies which census block groups are more or less vulnerable to extreme heat or extreme precipitation, relative to other areas in Burien.

The index can also help identify relative “hot spots” of vulnerability, which helps us understand why some areas may be more or less vulnerable. It also supports a planning-level view of vulnerability that is important for the development of an appropriate policy response.

Emily Inlow-Hood
Communications & Public Engagement Manager at | More posts
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