Additional affordable housing will soon be available in Bellevue, thanks to the ARCH Community Housing Trust, which plans to break ground soon on two duplexes that will be permanently affordable.

The Bellevue Planning & Zoning Commission approved the projects on Monday.

A request for proposals from general contractors ended Monday, and ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith said that construction will begin as soon as the ground is thawed. She predicted that the projects would take about nine months to finish.

Each two-story duplex—at 604 N. Fourth St. and 309 N. Fifth St.—will provide three bedrooms and two bathrooms on each side. They will each have two parking spaces, one in the garage and the second in the driveway.

Griffith said the properties were bought from private owners by ARCH directly, using saved donations from the community.

She said the project would not be possible without language in the Bellevue Comprehensive Plan that encourages the city to “concentrate future development in and around the existing city limits.” The plan goes on to state that “a mix of residential types should be provided. An adequate inventory of different types of housing should be available to reduce the increase in cost due to market demand,” it states. Griffith said the duplexes serve that section of the plan by offering mixed residential housing in a centrally located part of the city, within walking distance to the elementary school and two city parks.

“I really applaud the city of Bellevue,” she said.

ARCH—Advocates for Real Community Housing—works to supply housing to a list of applicants managed by the Blaine County Housing Authority, whose mission is to increase “the long-term supply of desirable and affordable housing choices in Blaine County to maintain an economically diverse, vibrant, and sustainable community.” A 2017 report from the Housing Authority states that a shortage of affordable-housing options is the single biggest challenge facing the people of Blaine County.

In a “state of the cities” meeting on Nov. 9, Housing Authority Executive Director Nathan Harvill said 200 people are on a one- to two-year waiting list for deed-restricted housing. During the meeting, Griffith said 40 percent of Blaine County residents are “housing burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their earnings on housing.

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