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Clallam Connects: Integrating Affordable Housing and Transportation

Affordable Housing Initiatives
Clallam Connects: Integrating Affordable Housing and Transportation

As a proud resident of Clallam County, I’ve witnessed firsthand the incredible strides our community has made in addressing the pressing issues of affordable housing and transportation. It’s no secret that these two challenges often go hand-in-hand, presenting a complex web of obstacles for individuals and families seeking to establish stable, sustainable lives. But I’m here to tell you that Clallam is rising to the occasion, weaving together innovative solutions that are transforming the landscape of our region.

Age-Friendly Communities: Designing for the Future

Let’s start with a sobering statistic: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of individuals aged 65 and older saw the largest and fastest growth in any decade since 1880-1890, reaching 58 million or 16% of the total population. And by 2035, the United States will have more people over the age of 65 than under 18 for the first time in history. With these dramatic shifts in demographics, it’s no wonder that communities across the country, including right here in Clallam, are rethinking how they can become more age-friendly.

Housing and transportation are the two biggest factors that can make or break an older adult’s ability to age in place and thrive. That’s why Clallam County is taking a holistic approach, weaving these two crucial elements together to create a more livable, inclusive community.

Clallam’s Age-Friendly Initiatives

One shining example of Clallam’s commitment to age-friendly initiatives is the city of Arlington’s Complete Streets Plan. This forward-thinking policy defines its target audience as “diverse users of all ages and abilities,” and its prioritization criteria include 10 points for projects that increase accessibility to daily needs and amenities for older adults. By ensuring that sidewalks, crosswalks, and transit stops are designed with the needs of older residents in mind, Arlington is paving the way for a more connected and accessible community.

But Arlington isn’t the only Clallam community taking action. Across the county, local governments are collaborating with organizations like senior centers and area agencies on aging to engage older adults in the planning process. They’re listening to the unique needs and challenges faced by this growing demographic, and then implementing changes that will enable residents to maintain healthy, independent lives as they age.

Innovative Transportation Solutions

But age-friendly initiatives in Clallam go beyond just physical infrastructure. The county is also pioneering innovative transportation solutions that cater to the needs of older adults and those with mobility challenges.

Take Clallam Connect, for example. This on-demand transit service provides door-to-door transportation for residents who may not have access to traditional public transportation options. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, nearly 20% of older adults don’t drive, and 40% live with ambulatory limitations. Clallam Connect helps bridge that gap, empowering residents to maintain their independence and access essential services.

But the county isn’t stopping there. The Bainbridge Island SeniorCommunity Center, a recipient of an AARP Community Challenge Grant, is piloting a collaborative transportation program that blends volunteers and contracted drivers to serve older adults. This innovative approach combines the personal touch of community-based support with the logistical efficiency of a coordinated service.

Designing for Walkable, Livable Neighborhoods

Of course, transportation solutions are only one piece of the puzzle. Clallam County is also leading the charge when it comes to creating walkable, livable neighborhoods that cater to the needs of older adults and residents of all ages.

The concept of “10-minute neighborhoods” – where basic daily needs are within a short walk or bike ride – is taking root across the county. Kirkland’s 10-Minute Neighborhood Analysis notes that 21% of the population aged 65 and older does not drive, and this segment is projected to grow significantly. By designing communities where essential services, social hubs, and transportation options are easily accessible, Clallam is ensuring that older residents can maintain their independence and stay engaged with their neighborhoods.

But the benefits of these “10-minute neighborhoods” extend beyond just the senior population. By creating mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environments, Clallam is fostering a sense of community and belonging for residents of all ages. Vibrant public spaces, like community gardens and pocket parks, encourage social interaction and healthy activities, further enhancing the quality of life for everyone who calls Clallam home.

Innovative Housing Solutions for Older Adults

Of course, affordable housing is another critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating age-friendly communities. Clallam County is tackling this challenge head-on, exploring a variety of innovative housing solutions that cater to the unique needs of older adults.

One shining example is the rise of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) – small, self-contained living spaces on the same lot as a primary residence. For older homeowners or their adult children, ADUs can provide opportunities for independent living, supplemental income, and intergenerational living arrangements. And with their compact size and convenient locations near amenities and transportation options, ADUs are an ideal housing choice for many older adults.

But ADUs are just the tip of the iceberg. Clallam County is also embracing the concept of cohousing – intentional communities of self-contained private units with shared spaces like gardens and laundry rooms. This model fosters a sense of community and support, which can be especially beneficial for older adults who may be at risk of social isolation.

And for those who prefer a more compact, low-maintenance living arrangement, Clallam is exploring the potential of co-living options like microhousing and single-room occupancy units. These innovative housing solutions mirror standard multi-family units but with a smaller footprint and shared common areas, making them an accessible and affordable choice for older adults.

A Future of Connection and Inclusivity

As I reflect on Clallam County’s impressive strides in integrating affordable housing and transportation, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and optimism for the future. By prioritizing age-friendly initiatives, innovative mobility solutions, and diverse housing options, our community is paving the way for a more connected, inclusive, and vibrant tomorrow.

But the true success of these efforts lies in the hands of the community itself. I encourage all of my fellow Clallam residents to get involved, whether it’s by participating in local planning processes, volunteering with community organizations, or simply being a vocal advocate for the changes you want to see. Together, we can ensure that Clallam remains a place where people of all ages and abilities can thrive, now and for generations to come.

So let’s keep the momentum going, Clallam. The future is ours to shape, and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish next.

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