Seattle Social Housing Developer Board to hold its first meeting ever

Seattle City Councilmember Tammy J. Morales speaks with the members of the Social Housing Developer Board for the first time at Seattle City Hall.

The new Seattle Social Housing Developer Board, which will oversee the work to bringing affordable social housing to Seattle, will meet for the first time Tuesday, May 23. This comes after Initiative 135 was approved by voters in February creating the Seattle Social Housing Developer.

The 13-member board was appointed last month. Since this is the board’s first meeting, they haven’t had a chance to elect their leadership. To help facilitate the meeting, Seattle City Councilmember Tammy J. Morales, the Council lead on social housing, will serve as acting chair.

The meeting will be at 5:30 PM in Seattle City Hall Room 370. You can follow along live here.

On the agenda:

  • A review of the Social Housing Developer’s charter
  • A discussion of their work plan preparation and consultant scope proposal
  • A random drawing to decide the lengths of each commissioners’ first terms (explained below)
  • Election of the board’s leadership

The meeting will then be closed out by the newly elected leadership of Seattle’s Social Housing Developer Board.

There is time scheduled for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. People can sign up at the meeting. The deadline for doing so is the end of the public comment period. Each speaker will get 2 minutes.

Initiative 135 requires that commissioners terms be staggered, meaning only a fraction of the 13 members’ terms will end on any given year. Otherwise, all 13 members would have their terms end simultaneously. To accomplish that staggering, some commissioners will have shorter initial terms than others. This will be decided at a random drawing during this first meeting.

The initiative laid out a process in which the first three names pulled will serve two years during their first terms. The next three names pulled will serve three years during their first terms. Finally, the remaining names will serve a full four-year term. Regardless of the drawing, every term following these first terms will last the full four years.

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What is social housing and how does it work in Seattle?

Like many West Coast cities, the cost of housing is skyrocketing. In Seattle, the price of renting an apartment has gone up more than 90 percent over the past decade. This has helped create a housing and homelessness crisis. Social housing is one way Seattle is trying to address this.

Social housing is regular rental housing, but instead of being owned by a private landlord, it is publicly owned and operated. The model is already being used in Vienna, Singapore, and other cities around the world.

In Seattle, the homes are rented to people making between 0-120 percent of the city’s area median income and rents are set according to what people are able to pay. People’s rent goes toward paying off the construction and operational costs of the building. Any excess profit can be reinvested into building new affordable housing.

In February 2023, Seattle passed a civilian-led I-135, with approval gaining 57 percent of the vote. The I-135 mandated the creation of a new public agency to develop, acquire, and maintain social housing in the city — the Seattle Social Housing Developer.

What is the Seattle Social Housing Developer Board?

In February, Seattle voters approved I-135 with 57 percent of the vote. I-135 created the Seattle Social Housing Developer — a public development authority that will create social housing in Seattle. The 13-member Seattle Social Housing Developer Board was part of I-135. It was created to oversee and govern the affairs of the Seattle Social Housing Developer and to use their diverse perspectives to inform its operations.

Under the initiative, the board must meet at least one a month. It is required to review monthly income and expense statements, as well as balance sheets. The meetings are required to open to the public and, if possible, broadcast.

How are Seattle Social Housing Developer Board members appointed?

I-135 required that the appointments include people from different economic situations — including members who have been displaced from housing and members who make less than half the area median income. I-135 also gave six different organizations the power to make appointments:

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