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Survey shows Sunnyside needs new housing stock

The Sunnyside City Council Monday night received a long-awaited housing survey conducted by the Yakima Valley Conference of Governments (YVCOG).

Sunnyside paid for the survey through a state grant and plans to include it in the city's comprehensive plan.

Michael Buchanan is a senior planner for YVCOG, and walked council members through the 58-page assessment of Sunnyside's current housing stock.

The survey, Buchanan said, points out that new housing is not keeping up with Sunnyside's population growth. He noted that the city's population grew by more than 26 percent between 1990 and 2000, but total housing units grew by only 13.8 percent.

In response to concerns expressed previously by the planning commission, the survey does show that Sunnyside has 428 parcels that are tax exempt, totaling more than $1.6 million.

Buchanan said the research found, though, that the bulk of that is not due to government subsidized housing. He noted that survey figures show a little more than 10 percent of the city's tax exempt parcels are due to agency housing. The remainder are for schools, parks, churches and land owned by the city.

In the final analysis, Buchanan said the city needs improved housing. Of 2,520 single family homes in Sunnyside, Buchanan said more than half-1,383-are substandard. Further, 7 percent of the city's current housing stock is deteriorated beyond repair.

Buchanan left the city with two recommendations.

First, he called on the city to develop a housing inventory for a "variety of neighborhoods that are attractive and will lead to an improved quality of life."

One way to get there, according to Buchanan, is for the city to put codes in place that do more than tell people what they can't do, but to encourage developers to leave more open green spaces.

To encourage appealing developments and to maintain those already in place, Buchanan recommended the city put in some flexibility with population densities to ensure that a new development will mesh with the existing housing already in the area.

Buchanan closed by encouraging council to "explore grant sources to rehabilitate current owner-occupied homes".

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