Housing Affordability statement from Mayor Murray

Mayor Murray released the following statement today regarding his forthcoming Housing Affordability Agenda:

“As the fastest growing city in America, Seattle is undergoing record growth and development. Our diverse economy – that spans sectors from industrial to hospitality to high-tech – has created thousands of new jobs. But as a result of this tremendous growth, housing is reaching a premium many of our residents can no longer afford. Many of Seattle’s low- and middle-income workers, families, artists, students, and immigrants new to our country are struggling to find homes at a price they can manage. Our city is at risk of losing the diversity it has always thrived on. State and regional agencies estimate at least 115,000 new jobs created in the next 20 years which will continue the housing squeeze and it will have a profound impact on the financially vulnerable.

After raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, I am committed to changing this narrative as the next step toward my administration’s goal of making Seattle an affordable city for all. Seattle’s future growth can and will bring unprecedented challenges for our city, but we can choose our path forward. This can be a moment to engage in battles over density and fear of change, or this can be a moment full of opportunity to create walkable, livable, and affordable mixed-income neighborhoods for everyone. As I said when I created an Income Inequality Advisory Committee to raise Seattle’s minimum wage earlier this year, making Seattle a more affordable city is at the core of my agenda. Seattle’s future growth can only be successful if we build a city that is affordable for everyone.

In partnership with the Seattle City Council, and following a stakeholder process similar to the one we used to negotiate an increase to the minimum wage, we will be convening a Housing Advisory Committee this fall to provide recommendations that help guide us in our policy-making around housing and development. We must start planning for future growth in strategic and intentional ways, and this committee will help us identify ways to achieve that. We will be looking at housing holistically – with our eye not just toward real estate and development issues, but also toward underlying regulatory and financing issues. Our goal will be increasing affordable housing across the economic spectrum – for homeless housing to workforce housing – at a scale that will have an impact for years to come. The committee will be comprised of renters and homeowners, as well as representatives from the financial sector, for-profit developers, non-profit developers, and other local housing experts.

The Housing Advisory Committee will be asked to identify ways we can deliver housing affordability across all income levels. They will be asked to look at every piece of the housing puzzle, including incentive zoning rules, the potential for linkage and impact fees, the impact of accessory dwelling units, new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable Housing Levy dollars using public-private partnerships, and more.

By bringing key voices to the table to think broadly and boldly, we can make a powerful and lasting impact on the current and future affordability of our city. I have already directed staff in our Office of Housing, Office of Policy and Innovation, and Department of Planning and Development to gather data about Seattle’s current housing needs and to research best practices around the world. When solutions are identified, I want the City of Seattle to be ready to hit the ground running.

I will have more to say later this fall about the Housing Advisory Committee, its foundational goals, and our process for establishing a Housing Affordability Agenda. For now, I would like to thank Councilmembers Sally Clark and Mike O’Brien for taking up some of these issues in their respective sub-committees this week. I look forward to working with the full Council in the months to come to find lasting solutions to Seattle’s affordability crisis.”