Council Reviews Affordable Workforce Housing Report, Hears Recommendations

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City of Seattle

Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Sally J. Clark

Council Reviews Affordable Workforce Housing Report, Hears Recommendations

SEATTLE – City Council reviewed an affordable workforce housing report yesterday in a joint meeting of the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee and the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency. The report compared housing conditions in Seattle against similar cities from across the country. In addition, the report reviewed policies and programs implemented in other cities that are considered best practices as it relates to increasing the supply of affordable housing. The National housing experts presented their findings and recommendations relating to increasing the affordable workforce housing supply in the City. Some of their recommendations included encouraging employer assisted housing, changes to infill development policies and creating a program to bank land near light rail stations.

“If middle income people can’t afford to live in Seattle, something needs to change,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Other cities offer some intriguing programs to address affordable housing in their neighborhoods and help us take a serious look at what can be implemented here.”

“The good news from the report is that Seattle already leads much of the country in housing affordability efforts,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark. “However, that means that making the bigger gains we need will require tough choices. I look forward to exploring these options, with the goals of both preserving existing affordable housing and encouraging the creation of new homes of all types throughout Seattle.”

The City is currently evaluating the most promising methods to increase the supply of affordable workforce housing in Seattle by engaging with national experts, consultants, stakeholders and the public. Consultants Paul Peninger and Kurt Creager compared Seattle’s housing policies against the similarly-sized cities of Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington DC.

  • Seattle has the lowest average household size of comparison cities at 2.05 people per household.
  • Seattle has slightly more renters than owners, placing the city in the middle of the comparison jurisdictions.
  • Seattle has the fourth highest median household income.
  • Seattle has the fourth least number of households earning less than $50K after San Francisco, San Jose and DC.
  • Most new units approved since 2000 have been multi-family, but Seattle still has a relatively large percent of detached units compared to the comparison jurisdictions.
  • Seattle is a leader among the peer cities in providing a consistent local source of funding through the housing levies.
  • Although rental and ownership housing is “out of reach” for many lower and middle income households, Seattle ranks near the middle of the comparison jurisdictions in terms of housing rental rates and sale prices.

Recommendations include:

  • Land Banking for Affordable Housing in and around transit stations and within designated Urban Villages could help preserve options for future development.
  • Refine regulatory policies around SEPA, accessory dwelling units and the Multifamily Tax Exemption program.
  • Olympia Legislative Strategy – Enable local governments required to plan under the Growth Management Act to charge impact fees for housing serving people under 80% of the Area Median Income when warranted.
  • Redouble efforts with the private sector and public agencies to create robust Employer Assisted Housing Programs.

Council expects to receive a second report next month regarding recommended changes to Seattle’s Incentive Zoning Program. The Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee will hold a public feedback session on the incentive zoning report on July 14th from 5:30-8:00 pm in the Bertha Knight Landes Room in City Hall.

On July 16th the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency is holding a community meeting on options for preserving existing affordable housing in the city from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Ballard Community Center (6020 28th Ave. NW).

Based on these sessions and the information from the consultant reports, the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee and the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency will then develop recommendations for the Office of Housing and the Department of Planning and Development to utilize to create legislation for Council consideration.

[View in Council Newsroom]