Rural Housing Alternative


Affordable housing means that a person spends no more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage. A person making $60,000 per year can afford something different than a person making minimum wage. Today in Lewis County, 48% of renters pay more than 30% of their income on housing and 24% pay more than 50% on housing. This means Lewis County residents increasingly cannot afford housing.

In Lewis County, 70% of the housing stock is single family residential, and the average sale price has increased from roughly $150,000 in 2012 to over $350,000 in 2021. In addition, between 2012 and 2021, there was a 69% decrease in the supply of homes for sale. In June 2021, the county had only a 1 month supply of housing. Typically, a region needs at least a 4 month supply to stabilize sale price. Rental unit vacancy is also low at 4.5%.

Goal: Increase Affordable Housing Options

The goal of the Rural Housing Alternative is to encourage development of housing types that are typically more affordable than single family residential, while fitting in the rural character of Lewis County. Single family residential housing is the most expensive type of housing because there is one person or family shouldering the cost burden of the house and land. Middle housing options like a duplex, triplex and quadplex distributes the cost of housing to more than one person or family. Figure 1 provides an example.

Rural Housing Concept Example - Duplex with Attached ADU

Figure 1: Rural Housing Concept Example - Duplex with Attached ADU (3 units of housing)

Rural Housing Alternative Proposal

The new housing options would only be allowed on lands zoned for rural development including RDD-5, RDD-10 and RDD-20. In order to protect resource lands, the new housing options would not be allowed on lands zoned Agricultural Resource Land, Forest Resource Land or Mineral Resource Land. There would be a limit of five (5) Rural Housing Alternative developments per fire district, per year, to ensure new housing does not create a disproportional impact to any one district.

The new rules would have the following limitations to ensure that rural character is preserved:

  1. The lot must be at least 5 acres in size.
  2. All housing units must be clustered within 1.25 acres of the lot.
  3. The total footprint of residential use must be less than 3,600 square feet.
  4. There may be up to four (4) housing units per development.
  5. The development must rely on rural water and wastewater services (usually well and septic).
  6. All housing units must be accessed from one primary driveway.
  7. The lot cannot be subdivided.
  8. There must be adequate rural public facilities (e.g., fire, school) to serve the development.


Stay Informed

Everyone in Lewis County is encouraged to engage in the process. To receive updates about changes to rules and regulations, please subscribe to the Lewis County Community Development email list and chose the “Development Regulation Changes” option.

Contact Information

Eric Eisenberg, Housing and Infrastructure Specialist

Mindy Brooks, Senior Long Range Planner