Seattle’s business district managers discover new resources for commercial affordability

On May 31, 2018 about 15 business district managers from across Seattle gathered together at a local startup firm – Blokable – to discuss commercial affordability. The Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Only in Seattle, Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship and Innovation teams, in partnership with the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDPDA) and Onpoint Real Estate Services, organized this peer networking event to share a model for commercial lease education workshops in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon, vet innovative solutions for affordable commercial space, and make connections between business districts.

Blokable—a local startup manufacturer of pre-fabricated housing units that are modular, or stackable, to create multistory residential or mixed-use buildings—launched to reinvent the construction and manufacturing process to be more efficient, green and affordable. Blokable units are cheaper and can deliver results faster than the traditional affordable home building process; think 21st century, tech-enabled mobile homes with a completely redesigned building, delivery and installation process and the ability for commercial uses. Imagine the possibilities! We started the event with lunch catered by San Fernando’s and a self-tour of a Blokable unit – a 300ft2 studio, fully equipped with a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, lighting and heating. The unit is mobile and can be transported on the back of a semi-truck to almost any destination. As we settled into the agenda, Aaron Holm, Blokable’s Co-CEO spoke to the group about the how the company started and the potential for commercial uses. Want to see Blokable in action? Check out the latest project in Edmonds, WA in partnership with Compass Housing Alliance.

Next, Ken Takahashi, OED’s Development Finance Advisor, introduced OED’s business services and shared the ways in which OED is supporting commercial affordability. Reasonable rents are not the only definition of commercial affordability. A broader approach includes innovative space ideas like Blokable’s products, and education efforts such as commercial lease education workshops, the second topic of the peer networking event.

Jennifer Tam, OED’s Restaurant Advocate and Shanti Breznau, SCIDPDA’s Business Development Manager, presented the model they are using for commercial lease education workshops in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon. They discussed how they developed the curriculum for the workshop series, outreach and engagement methods, and why local grassroots capacity is so critical to the success of designing and executing the workshop. The Commercial Lease Education Workshop overview provides additional details on the program, and you can get an inside look into the second workshop (Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese) that featured tenant improvements—a major factor when it comes to new and existing tenants. A unique feature of the workshop series is relationship building with business owners. Through Shanti’s connections, she knew translation and interpretation services would be essential to a successful workshop, and the content was translated into two languages – Vietnamese and Chinese.

In addition to the workshop series in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon, OED contracted with Onpoint Real Estate Services to provide city-wide workshops on broader lease education topics. Onpoint’s Managing Partner, Jaebadiah Gardner, and his staff will consult with individual business owners on their lease challenges for up to five hours for free. Please contact Yonas Seifu to learn more and get connected to Onpoint for your business needs.

Throughout the presentations, district managers were asked a guiding question – how could you adapt these services to work in your district? To close out the meeting, there was a robust conversation among all the attendees to iterate and expand on these offerings. OED will be following up individually with districts that expressed interest in hosting a commercial lease education workshop and explore partnership opportunities with Blokable to bring affordable commercial options to Seattle’s underutilized space. If you have any questions, please follow up with OED or one of our partners listed below.

More resources from the presentation can be found below:

Land use resources to monitor and track development:

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
geoffrey.wentlandt@seattle.gov

Housing Affordability and Livablity Agenda Community Open House

Mayor Murray and members of City Council have launched work on a new Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The Mayor and Council have called together leaders in our community to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability and availability of housing in our city. The agenda will chart a course for the next 10 years to ensure the development and preservation of a diversity of housing for people across the income spectrum. The Housing Affordability & Livability Advisory Committee will review every piece of the housing puzzle, including innovative ideas to pilot new types of housing, accessory dwelling unit regulations, new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable Housing Levy dollars, and more.

Please join us at a community open house where you’ll have an opportunity to talk with City staff about density, housing types, locating new housing, and what growth looks like, among several other topics. Your feedback will help inform the Housing Affordablity & Livability Committee’s recommendations to the Mayor.

Open House Details:

Thursday, December 4
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Olympic View Elementary School
504 NE 95th St.

The agenda will be guided by the following goals and values:

  • Strengthen our city through housing affordability
  • Ensure equal access to housing to advance social and racial justice
  • Promote the livability of Seattle’s neighborhoods
  • Promote housing opportunity across Seattle
  • Promote equitable growth Continue our commitment to prioritizing those most in need
  • Embrace innovation and build upon current, proven programs and policies

Visit the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda website for more information.

Housing Affordability and Livablity Agenda Community Open Houses

This month Mayor Murray and members of City Council launched work on a new Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The Mayor and Council have called together leaders in our community to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability and availability of housing in our city. The agenda will chart a course for the next 10 years to ensure the development and preservation of a diversity of housing for people across the income spectrum. The Housing Affordability & Livability Advisory Committee will review every piece of the housing puzzle, including innovative ideas to pilot new types of housing, accessory dwelling unit regulations, new efforts to preserve existing affordable housing, opportunities to stretch our valuable Housing Levy dollars, and more.

Please join us at one of two community open houses this month. You’ll have an opportunity to talk with City staff about density, housing types, locating new housing, and what growth looks like, among several other topics. Your feedback will help inform the Housing Affordablity & Livability Committee’s recommendations to the Mayor.

Open House Details:

Wednesday, November 19
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Ethiopian Community Center
8323 Rainier Ave South

Thursday, November 20
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Garfield Community Center
2323 East Cherry St

The agenda will be guided by the following goals and values:

  • Strengthen our city through housing affordability
  • Ensure equal access to housing to advance social and racial justice
  • Promote the livability of Seattle’s neighborhoods
  • Promote housing opportunity across Seattle
  • Promote equitable growth Continue our commitment to prioritizing those most in need
  • Embrace innovation and build upon current, proven programs and policies

Can’t make November 19 or 20? You can still participate. Save the date for December 4, or keep an eye out for announcements about an online town hall.

Visit the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda website for more information.