Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Announced

Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Announced

 SEATTLE The City Council’s Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency approved a resolution today calling for the development of a Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda for Seattle. The Agenda will create a comprehensive housing plan for Seattle by identifying housing needs over the next ten years and recommending new policies or programs to meet any gaps.

“We have to intentionally plan to achieve housing affordability for a diverse mix of incomes and families in our city,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark, the legislation’s sponsor and chair of the committee.  “For the first time, we’ll have a comprehensive catch-all plan for how we’d like to see housing serve the entire spectrum of people in Seattle.”

The Agenda will be developed in the City’s Office of Housing and Office for Policy and Innovation, aided by a stakeholder advisory group.  Staff will utilize recent council reports and research, best practices from cities around the nation and conduct a thorough review of existing policies and programs from across City departments. The plan is expected to be presented back to the Mayor and City Council by the end of May, 2015 for further community engagement, review and adoption.

“We need more housing options so that people who work in this city can afford to live in this city,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “I believe this plan will help us get in front of the growing pressure on affordability and help us provide more opportunities to live in Seattle for more people.”

Seattle currently faces many challenges relating to housing affordability and access.  Currently, 43% of Seattle renter households are burdened by housing costs and 21% are severely burdened, which means more than one- half of household income goes toward rent.  Preliminary data also suggests Seattle will have a growing gap in family-sized housing.  According to a recent study, enrollment in Seattle Public Schools’ kindergartens began increasing rapidly in the last decade. Enrollment is projected to be nearly 60,000 by the year 2020.

“Preserving affordable housing is particularly important in this housing climate when subsidized housing like the Theodora is being converted to market rate housing, not to mention the cycle of demolition, redevelopment and increased rent in market rate rentals, and finally the likely future upswing in condo conversions,” said Councilmember Nick Licata.

“Working together as a city, we can seize our destiny as a city that increases affordable housing across the economic spectrum – for homeless housing to workforce housing,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “By hearing from renters and homeowners, and representatives from the financial sector, for-profit developers, non-profit developers, and other local housing experts, we can develop a housing agenda that will make a powerful and lasting impact on the current and future affordability of our city.”

The resolution was developed collaboratively with community members, Mayor Ed Murray, Councilmember Sally J. Clark, Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Councilmember Nick Licata.  Full Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution on Monday, September 22.

Seattle Launches Foreclosure Prevention Outreach Campaign

Seattle Launches Foreclosure Prevention Outreach Campaign

Effort Hopes to Share Free Resources with Struggling Homeowners


SEATTLE – This fall, the Seattle Office of Housing will be spreading the word about free resources available to help homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The Seattle Homeowner Stabilization Program will partner with community organizations to conduct targeted outreach to homeowners in areas of the city most impacted by foreclosures, as well as reach out to the entire city through social media, partner organizations and the media.

The outreach effort builds on an existing foreclosure prevention program at the Office of Housing and utilizes $150,000 in dedicated funding approved by the Seattle City Council in September.

“Foreclosure has a devastating impact on Seattle’s homeowners, their neighborhoods and on our City as a whole. This outreach effort should have an immediate and positive impact for many individuals and families in need of help, while we also continue to explore other new and creative solutions,” stated Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency.

“Our primary goal is awareness,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “Many resources are available to the public, such as free counseling and legal services, which can help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure in many cases. But it is vital that people seek help as soon as possible to preserve their options.”

Currently, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has a robust foreclosure prevention program, and many community organizations are already working diligently to assist homeowners in need of assistance. The City will build off these existing efforts and relationships to help even more homeowners stay in their homes.

“This outreach initiative is extremely helpful for reaching underserved populations that are disproportionately impacted by foreclosures in Seattle,” said Angeline Thomas, Foreclosure Mediation and Outreach Project Attorney at Seattle University.


In 2013, there were 2,090 homeowners who received Notice of Trustee Sales, which provide notice of a scheduled foreclosure auction on their foreclosed property. According to the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, only 10% of distressed or at-risk homeowners seek out the free resources available to help them.

“We find that every household that is struggling to pay its mortgage is unique,” stated Lili Sotelo of NW Justice Project. “The most important thing is for homeowners to seek help from a reputable organization as soon as possible so we can find the solutions that fit their situation.”

More information about foreclosure prevention resources is available at www.seattle.gov/housing/foreclosure.

Organizations that are interested in receiving further support to assist with foreclosure prevention may call 206.684.0721 or email housing@seattle.gov.

The Seattle Office of Housing provides support to low-income residents in Seattle through rental housing preservation and production, home buyer assistance, free weatherization services, and home repair loans. www.seattle.gov/housing

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Seafair Princesses at Council Today, Addressing Gender Pay Gap


Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Sally J. Clark

Seafair Princesses at Council Today, Addressing Gender Pay Gap

SeattleCouncilmembers Jean Godden and Sally J. Clark welcomed the Seafair Princesses to City Council today to discuss gender pay disparity in Seattle and how the Seafair Foundation’s Scholarship Program for Women participants can help take action to address the problem.  Councilmembers engaged with the young women, who agreed to become "Gender Pay Ambassadors," bringing awareness of the pay disparity to their respective communities.  The young women then visited Full Council, where Councilmembers proclaimed July 21, "Seafair Foundation Day."

"These young women are our future leaders, and I’m thrilled to have them engage in the issues of equal pay and gender equity," said Councilmember Jean Godden. "I’m thankful for Seafair Foundation’s Scholarship Program for Women which provides more than $20,000 in scholarship assistance to young women seeking academic scholarships and leadership development."

Councilmembers discussed the recent study which found that, on average, women in the Puget Sound region are paid $0.73 relative to every dollar a man earned.  Among City employees, women were found to have earned $0.90 for every dollar a man earned and comprise only 1/3 of the City workforce.  Between 2013 and 2014, Councilmember Godden spearheaded an effort with former Mayor Mike McGinn and current Mayor Ed Murray to identify solutions to end the disparity.  Work to address the disparity is currently underway.

"The Scholarship Program for Women empowers young women to reach their personal and professional goals by showcasing their academic abilities, community service, and public speaking skills," said Beth Knox, Seafair President and CEO. "Visiting City Hall and meeting female civic leaders is an important addition to their experience with Seafair and the community."

With a mission to promote philanthropy, diversity and community involvement, participants/princesses represent Seafair at nearly 20 community events and parades. Participants are also paired with respected local female professionals in a Mentorship Program. This program provides the opportunity for participants to gain professional experience through networking and exposure to the business world.

The Seafair Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable partner of the Seafair Festival, was established to create and build opportunities for Seafair’s youth education, cultural and community engagement programs. Their mission is to empower our future leaders and connect Greater Puget Sound through unique experiences. The Seafair Foundation is passionate about celebrating the culture and unique assets of your community, which contributes to the quality of life for those who live, work and play here.

[View in Council Newsroom]

Council Reviews Affordable Workforce Housing Report, Hears Recommendations


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]

City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle


Councilmember Sally J. Clark
Council President Tim Burgess
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
Councilmember Nick Licata
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
Councilmember Kshama Sawant

City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle
Historic vote addresses income inequality

SEATTLESeattle City Council unanimously approved the adoption of a $15 per hour minimum wage today, making Seattle the first major city in America to take such an action to address income inequality. Beginning April 1, 2015, the legislation will phase-in a $15 per hour minimum wage annually over 3 to 7 years, depending on employer size.

“Today we answer President Obama’s call and the moral call to address the plight of low wage workers,” said Councilmember Sally J. Clark, chair of the City Council’s Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality. “Seattle’s new law puts low wage workers on a path to $15 and does it in a way that respects Seattle’s love for local businesses and world-leading innovation.”

Twenty-four percent of Seattle workers earn hourly wages of $15 per hour or less, and approximately 13.6 percent of the Seattle community lives below the federal poverty level, according to a University of Washington study. Washington State’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 per hour. Effective April 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Seattle will be $10.00 or $11.00 per hour depending on employer size. A chart illustrating the subsequent annual minimum wage increase based on employer size is available here.

“With inaction at the state and national levels, it’s time for cities to demonstrate bold and necessary leadership to address income inequality,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “Seattle has found a workable and careful compromise that recognizes both the harm caused by stagnant wages and the harm to local businesses should we move forward too quickly.”

Mayor Ed Murray forwarded a proposal to the City Council after it had been developed by a stakeholder group, which included representatives of Seattle’s business, labor and non-profit communities and three councilmembers. The Seattle City Council, reviewed relevant studies, held public forums for feedback, hosted industry-specific discussions, considered the Mayor’s proposal and heard thousands of community comments over the first half of 2014.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw said, “In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’ Today, we have made true progress so people can work and live in our city.”

“Today is an unprecedented step forward for working families in Seattle,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “Especially for women who tend to make up more than half of low wage workers, a higher minimum wage is a powerful tool to reduce income inequality based on gender.”

“This is a historic moment: the culmination of workers banding together over a year ago to raise the national debate on income inequality. Seattle listened and today, we are acting to help workers earn a living wage,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell. “This is one of the most important race and social justice-related legislation enacted, most positively impacting people of color, women and immigrants. We must continue working with small businesses and the ethnic minority community to support their growth and help them succeed.”

“Council’s next critical step is to legislate the enforcement of this new law with the creation of an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “Responsible businesses who follow the law must not be at a competitive disadvantage with those businesses not administering fair labor practices.”

“I am honored to cast my vote today in support of the tens of thousands of working people in Seattle who are about to get a much needed raise,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Almost a year ago to the day, I escorted fast food workers back to their jobs to ensure they would not face retaliation for striking for better pay, and thanks to the movement they started we are making history today.”

“This legislation sends a message heard around the world: Seattle wants to stop the race to the bottom in wages and that we deplore the growth in income inequality and the widening gap between the rich and the poor,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.

“This is a victory for our movement – it shows the power of working people when we organize and fight for our rights,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “It will inspire millions of people all over the nation to build on this historic step forward. Fifteen in Seattle is just the beginning.”

The legislation will take effect thirty days after Mayor Ed Murray signs the legislation into law. Seattle has a population of approximately 634,535 in 2012, according to the United States Census and is approximately 84 square miles in land area.

[View in Council Newsroom]