Redmond’s new affordable housing project gets mixed feedback

The location is a city-owned property on 16725 Cleveland Street, a plot of land initially intended for future affordable housing near light rail transit.

Following Redmond’s adoption of an affordable housing project with Plymouth Housing in February, originally slated for Kenmore, residents have begun echoing concerns similar to those voiced by Kenmore residents.

A conversation between Plymouth Housing and the city of Kenmore in 2022 led to a proposal to develop a 100-unit permanent supportive housing apartment complex for people who have a zero to 30% area medium income (AMI) and are just getting out of homelessness.

The facility would have included wraparound support services, 24/7 on-site staff, and easy access to transit in downtown Kenmore.

Throughout the next 20 months, Kenmore and Plymouth Housing secured a design and over $40 million in city and state funding, nonprofit donations and tax credit entities. However, when it came time to approve the development agreement at a December 2023 Kenmore City Council meeting, the project was heavily opposed.

Residents voiced their concerns surrounding the potential residents, safety and the development’s impact on local businesses. Kenmore City Councilmembers wrangled with the decision until 3 a.m. Ultimately, the council opposed the project in a special meeting in a 5-2 vote.

Redmond adopts Plymouth project

The project was likely to collapse without a plot of land or foundational funding from the city, the low-income housing tax credits, A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH), State Housing Trust Fund, Plymouth Housing and state direct appropriation funding.

“If there is no home for this project, the opportunity disappears,” said Carol Helland, the Redmond director of planning and community development and chair of ARCH.

Although the nature of the project is unprecedented, “for instance we don’t secure funding for a project prior to site selection,” said Elizabeth Murphy, real estate developer at Plymouth Housing, ARCH found an opportunity in Redmond to keep funding intact.

The location is a city-owned property on 16725 Cleveland Street — a plot of land initially intended for future affordable housing near light rail transit.

“If this property is lost, we’ve looked at other ARCH jurisdictions for other similar properties, and there was none we could identify,” Helland said. “So, the money would be reallocated to different projects.”

Redmond would also need to foot Kenmore’s portion of the funding, which could reach $3.2 million. Before the project, Redmond had allocated $10 million to housing projects in the 2023-2024 budget, according to the city website.

Besides the city having prior funds and a viable plot of land, Redmond’s involvement was mutually beneficial for both the project and Redmond itself, as Mayor Angela Birney and the Redmond City Council declared affordable housing a top priority last year.

With the city’s AMI reaching $137,000, an anticipated 24,000 new homes needed by 2044 and a pronounced demand for housing within the 0 to 50% AMI range, the Plymouth Housing project made for a seemingly good fit for Redmond.


When the Redmond City Council took one of the first steps to implement the project by approving a land transfer at a special meeting in February — in a 5-1 vote — the project began to receive criticism.

Redmond residents filled the seats and lined the walls at the March 20 and April 2 city council business meetings. Before the meetings, a group known as Safe Eastside staged protests against the project outside City Hall.

At both meetings, public comments regarding the project took over an hour.

Some residents urged the council to reconsider the entire project, citing safety concerns, the rapid implementation of the project in Redmond, and a lack of transparency and accountability from the council. Many highlighted the absence of a public hearing during land transfer as an example of secrecy — though public hearings are not mandatory for property transfers, said a city spokesperson.

Supportive residents expressed pride in Redmond for prioritizing vital affordable housing initiatives. They shared personal anecdotes of how housing, including Plymouth Housing, positively impacted their lives or those they know who have experienced homelessness. Several residents examined the argument surrounding crime and safety, highlighting that with sufficient support, desperation-driven actions decrease.

Safety and next steps

As residents raise various safety concerns, Plymouth Housing has reiterated the rigorous guidelines and procedures within its housing developments, including: 24/7 staffing, background checks, excluding safe injection sites, prohibiting registered sex offenders and people with certain drug convictions, and imposing a code of conduct addressing threatening behavior, weapons, alcohol, marijuana and the usage and sale of illegal drugs.

According to the city website, the final code of conduct for the Redmond location requires approval from the Redmond Police Department and the director of planning and community development with feedback from human services staff.

The next steps include a redesign of the project to align with Cleveland Street. Once finished, Plymouth Housing will send an application to the city and will undergo an environmental impact review. Surrounding properties will be notified of the project and notices will be posted at City Hall and the Redmond Library.

“The community will have an opportunity to comment on the application submitted by Plymouth and feedback on the project design will be provided by the Design Review Board,” according to the city website, which shares updated information of the project.

At the February special meeting, Karen Lee, CEO of Plymouth Housing, expressed her desire to work with the community, including city leaders, businesses, law enforcement and residents throughout the project.