Housing Affordability: The Road Forward

Mayor Murray released his Roadmap to an Affordable and Livable City on July 13. The Roadmap provides an action plan to reach his goal of 50,000 new homes, including 20,000 net new income- and rent-restricted homes for households with incomes throughout the low-income spectrum (≤ 30% AMI, ≤ 60% AMI, ≤ 80% AMI), over the next decade.

Today, about 45,000 households in Seattle spend more than half their incomes on housing costs. An estimated 2,800 people sleep outside each night in Seattle. In response to this crisis, in September 2014, City Council and the Mayor convened the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee, comprised of both renters and homeowners with expertise in local housing issues, and for-profit and non-profit housing developers. The Mayor’s action plan is a response to the 65 recommendations by the HALA Committee, completed after 10 months of study and consensus building in response to the Mayor’s directive for a bold, visionary approach to Seattle’s housing affordability crisis.

“As Seattle expands and experiences rapid economic growth, more people are chasing a limited supply of housing. We are facing our worst housing affordability crisis in decades,” said Mayor Ed Murray upon release of the Advisory Committee recommendations and his Roadmap to an Affordable and Livable City. “My vision is a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live here. Housing affordability is just one building block to a more equitable city. It goes hand in hand with our efforts on raising the minimum wage, providing preschool education for low-income children, and increasing access to parks and transit. We all share a responsibility in making Seattle affordable. Together, this plan will take us there.”

The following are the four key policy and program areas of the Mayor’s action plan:

  1. Invest in housing for those most in need
  2. Create new and affordable housing for all Seattleites
  3. Prevent displacement and foster equitable communities
  4. Promote efficient and innovative development

The action agenda aims to triple annual affordable housing production in Seattle. A key element of that goal would be new requirements that affordable housing be included in residential developments (Mandatory Inclusionary Housing) or mitigation of affordable housing impacts of commercial development be provided through payments (Commercial Linkage Fee) in multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. The development capacity would be marginally increased in those zones but the affordable housing requirements would be mandatory regardless of how much development capacity is used. The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and the Commercial Linkage Fee could lead to the construction of at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.

Other HALA priorities for public input, planning and implementation include:

  • Increase opportunities for multifamily housing
  • Increase access, affordability, and diversity of housing options in areas near frequent transit service
  • Strengthen the tenant relocation assistance ordinance (TRAO)
  • Streamline city codes and permitting processes
  • Reform design review and historic review
  • Reform parking policies

Some items in the action plan could be implemented this year, while others will require at least two years to implement.

For more information, contact:

Geoff Wentlandt
(206) 684-3586