Renton to receive county funding

Money in affordable housing, transportation analysis and evaluation of a Skyway community center

When King County Council approved it’s $11.7 billion 2019-2020 county budget, it included funds for Renton Housing Authority, a Renton transportation improvement study and review of a possible community center in Skyway.

One of the new investments in the county this year was workforce housing, Budget Committee Chair Dave Upthegrove said, and $5 million was allocated to the RHA Sunset Oaks project.

“This 62-unit affordable housing project will provide quality housing for low income individuals and families, and is an important part of our overall development efforts in the Sunset area,” Mayor Denis Law said.

Upthegrove said Renton identified Sunset Oaks as an immediate housing project for King County to consider.

Sunset Oaks will be an affordable housing project on the east side of Harrington Northeast Street, where the now demolished Sunset Terrace stood. Executive Director of Renton Housing Authority Mark Gropper said the families who were moved from the terrace, with the assistance of housing choice vouchers and RHA, will be given dibs coming back to the new units.

“We hope to have it fully funded in 2019 with tax credit equity complimenting the $5 million from King County, and break ground by the end of 2019, with grand opening by 2020,” Gropper said.

The metro transit analysis for Renton from King County was a bit of an unusual line item, Upthegrove said, but it was important to him because Renton is currently underserved in that way, as it sits away from the light rail and the Sounder train. And with the development of a private water taxi by Southport that would transport people from Renton to South Lake Union, Upthegrove wants to ensure transit is reaching that area.

“It’s occupied quite a bit of time and attention in our office,” Upthegrove said of Renton’s transit.

From talks with constituents and his chief-of-staff about Renton transit, Upthegrove last year asked for King County Metro to pull data on bus routes with worst performance times and cancellations, and said Renton routes had “chronic performance issues” with some of the worst performing routes.

Typically, the county prefers a city to fund some of a study like this, Upthegrove said, but all the new development in a changing Renton made the budget committee decide there was an opportunity that could be supported by the county through improved transit service.

Renton city councilmember Ruth Pérez said county councilmembers Upthegrove and Reagan Dunn have been good advocates for the Renton community.

“If we don’t have enough buses going where you want to go, we cannot use public transportation or encourage our public to use it. This will help the quality of life, you won’t be in the car all the time you can be with your family and children,” Pérez said.

Growing up in the bustling Mexico City, she said she knows better than anybody how waiting in cars all the time can affect not only your mood, but your health.

While Renton won’t have direct authority over the study, Law said language in it includes that King County Metro will consult with Renton staff.

“We are very hopeful the transit study part of the budget can help us address transit needs in the Southport/Boeing area; ways to address capital needs and transit oriented development opportunities at the new transit center proposed at the Sound Ford site, and for ways to better coordinate and potentially accelerate Rapid Ride Service in Renton,” Law said.

Upthegrove said there is also a feasibility analysis about a possible community center in Skyway. Upthegrove said this, and a new department of local services, are steps to help the county better support unincorporated areas. He said the community center is something folks have wanted for a long time.

“We’re trying to do a better job of that local government aspect (for unincorporated areas). We focus so much on these regional services, and now we’re working to kind of align our budget and the different county agencies in a way that focuses more on customer service and delivery,” Upthegrove said.

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