Yelm to pay $12,000 for housing study examining racial inequality

City partnering with Lacey, Tumwater, Olympia, TRPC on project


The City of Yelm will pay $12,000 for its share of a study with different county government agencies to examine racial inequality language included in old codes that could prevent people from getting housing.

The City Council approved the memorandum of understanding to partner with Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC), City of Lacey, City of Tumwater and City of Olympia.

The total cost of the study is $90,000, and Yelm Public Works Director Cody Colt said TRPC is doing the study for Thurston County.

“Our contribution is based on population, so I think we’re contributing 11% of the overall cost, while the other three cities and the county are contributing more. It is required to be done by the state. We have to do it,” Colt said at the May 7 Yelm City Council study session. “So it makes sense to partner up instead of doing it by ourselves.”

Councilor Tracey Wood asked Colt what specifically would be studied by TRPC, to which Colt answered “housing displacement and racially disparate impact analysis.”

He added that, historically, many cities included language  in zoning codes barring people of color or other demographics from moving into certain areas, while  some homeowners associations did the same through covenants. This study would ensure that any such language is identified and eliminated from city code.

“It looks at policies and regulations in all the cities and areas that would create racial disparity. It looks at zoning that may have discriminatory effects,” Colt said “Some of those laws still exist in some areas, and they may be just ignored. They may not even know they’re there. So they look through those to try to remove them.”

The study is well within the City of Yelm’s budget, as Colt said it has $50,000 budgeted “to do these kinds of things.” He said the study would benefit people with “high risks of displacement” as the project will consider what policies can be implemented to help people “on the brink” of losing their jobs or homes.

“The idea is to avoid things like the 2008 crash where everybody lost in foreclosure, and to prevent barriers from people becoming homeowners or getting into housing at all. It’s an impact analysis to look at all of it. It’s required by the state to do it,” Colt said. “If we partner, it’s the easiest way to do it. They’re going to do it regardless, so if we jump on board we save a lot of money instead of having to do it ourselves.”

This item came before Yelm City Council for vote during its meeting on May 14.