Racial disparities impact study to be funded by Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm


Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm have agreed to conduct a study on housing and racial disparities.

The Olympia City Council has approved a resolution that allows the city to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm to conduct a joint housing displacement and racially disparate impacts analysis.

At the city council meeting on Tuesday, May 7, Christa Lenssen, Olympia's Housing Program specialist, explained the analysis will help update the housing element of the city's comprehensive plan.

Lenssen added that new state laws require cities and counties to consider how future growth and planning policies could impact communities when updating their comprehensive plans.

Specifically, jurisdictions must analyze whether plans and policies will address housing needs and do not cause further harm to communities who might have been impacted by previous policies and cause displacement, or impact community members.

Under the agreement, Olympia will take the lead on entering into and managing a contract with the selected consultant, BDS Planning & Urban Design, a Washington limited liability company (LLC). It is contracted to perform housing displacement and racially disparate impact analysis for each jurisdiction.

The consultant is tasked with developing a racial equity and displacement report aligning with state guidelines. The report will analyze local policies and regulations that result in racially disparate impacts, displacement risks, and areas where people may be at higher risk of displacement.

The consultant will also develop proposed strategies and policies to support anti-displacement measures.

These strategies and policies aim to help undo the impacts of local policies and regulations that have previously resulted in racially disparate impacts, displacement, and housing exclusion. Specifically, the analysis aims to address issues defined in Washington state law under RCW 36.70A.070(2)(e)-(h), such as disproportionate housing costs and lack of access to opportunity for communities of color.

The full amount of the contracted services will not exceed $99,000.

Olympia will initially cover the consultant's fees for the contracted services. At the end of the contract, the partner cities will reimburse Olympia based on the following percentages:

  • Lacey – 32%
  • Tumwater – 22%
  • Olympia- 33%
  • Yelm – 13%

Tumwater committee endorses agreement

The Tumwater General Government committee endorsed the MOU with Olympia, Lacey, and Yelm to contract a consultant for a housing displacement analysis. Planning Manager Brad Medrud noted that the contract is expected to be about $85,000. Tumwater’s contribution, funded by its general fund, will be 22% of the contract amount.

Each city will designate staff representatives to coordinate with the consultant and develop policies. Public engagement activities will begin in July, with data collection for the displacement study starting afterward. Policy development will occur from September to November, with a presentation to the cities scheduled before the end of February 2025.

The committee’s endorsement will forward the memorandum of understanding to the Tumwater City Council for approval on May 21.

Lacey’s role and funding

The Lacey City Council has signed the MOU, committing to a regional effort to address housing displacement and racial disparities.

Vanessa Dolbee, Lacey’s Community and Economic Development director emphasized the significance of collaboration in addressing these multifaceted issues.  

Dolbee said the MOU is a shared commitment to pool resources and expertise, fostering a regional approach to problem-solving.  

Under the MOU, Lacey will spearhead coordination efforts with the chosen consultant, BDS Planning and Urban Design. The cost-sharing arrangement outlined in the MOU allocates $31,680 to Lacey, a portion of which will be covered by a $175,000 grant from the Department of Commerce's GMA Comprehensive Plan Update Grant. 

Yelm participates

On May 14, the Yelm City Council approved the MOU, allowing the city to share the costs of the housing displacement and disparate impacts study.

Yelm’s Planning and Building Manager Gary Cooper, explained to the city council that House Bill 1220 mandates that all cities conduct extensive affordable housing planning to accommodate growth.

He said the displacement analysis is the third initiative they will be working on related to House Bill 1220. The first was a housing allocation study. The second was a land capacity analysis. Each of these first two initiatives was conducted jointly with the other cities and Thurston County.

He said the partnership will allow the smaller City of Yelm to share the costs of the analysis, with their contribution not expected to exceed $12,800.

During the city council study session, Councilmember Brian Hess inquired if other nearby cities could participate. Cooper said Yelm’s involvement in the Regional Housing Council has helped them be included in collaborative efforts with Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater.

The council approved signing the MOU to take part in the joint displacement analysis with the other municipalities.

According to Cooper, the analysis is the third in a series of housing studies the cities have tackled together to comply with state growth management requirements.


13 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Southsoundguy

    Waste of money.

    Thursday, May 16 Report this

  • Info2Consider

    So we are funneling more Taxpayer money into woke DEI programs instead of applying to actual problems?

    Thursday, May 16 Report this

  • Carolyn Byerly

    This study is extremely important and should provide much needed data for public policy as well as housing developers. I'm impressed at the number of jurisdictions that have entered into agreement to study racial disparities in local housing/displacement. This is a dimension of homelessness as well as housing instability among renters that must be addressed. I'm proud to live in a community with elected representatives who care about all of its people.

    Thursday, May 16 Report this

  • Terrilovesanimals

    Too much emphasis on race all the time. Put blinders on. No application should have any questions regarding age, *** or race.

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • hptrillium

    The intention is good but the huge amount of money could be better spent building actual housing for low income people.

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • Boatyarddog

    Agreed With HPtrillium.

    As far as a waste No!

    We have to know demograpics.

    Anti woke?

    We Know where your Head is!

    DO you?

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • JW

    Endless studies, consultants, committees, and meetings in an attempt to figure out a problem we know the solutions to.

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • Guccarelli

    Whenever I see a comment about "woke DEI programs," I'm sure the commenter is just regurgitating "stuff he heard."

    Friday, May 17 Report this

  • HotTractor

    It's good to hear the community is taking steps to address issues that all of us are experiencing.

    Stay woke, don't spend your time asleep and parroting other people's nonsense.

    Saturday, May 18 Report this

  • Cobbnaustic

    Time to start a nonprofit. LOL

    Saturday, May 18 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Wokeness is a disease.

    Saturday, May 18 Report this

  • tolerd

    It's just amazing how some just react so predictably with "anit-woke" or is it "pro asleep" rhetoric and add zero intellgent thoughts to the subject. Oh well. Housing policies continue to hurt some more than others and hopefully this study can help illuminate that reality for our cities and help them identify what policies need reform.

    Sunday, May 19 Report this

  • Yeti1981

    @tolerd - Let's hope they actually include the people who work in the housing industry like the local homebuilders. I wonder if they will realize that things like impact fees are actually inequitable.

    Thursday, May 23 Report this