The Latest News on Affordable Housing
Find the latest news on affordable housing, the linkage fee, HALA, and the Coalition for Housing Solutions.
Local Voices: What people are saying about affordable housing in Seattle
Find the latest news on affordable housing, the linkage fee, HALA, and the Coalition for Housing Solutions.
Mayor Ed Murray’s housing affordability task force (the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, HALA committee) is releasing its recommendations to city council today.The recommendations will look much like the bombshell draft that was leaked last week.
The mayor can try and walk it back—as the leak was intended to make him do—but the cat is out of the bag now on this overdue idea to move Seattle away from the 1950s design template that the committee identified as a key component of today’s affordable housing crisis.
Most dramatically, the committee is considering a recommendation to do away with single-family zoning — which for a hundred-plus years has been the defining feature of Seattle’s strong neighborhood feel.
“We can still be a city for everyone, but only if we give up our outdated ideal of every family living in their own home on a 5,000 square foot lot,” a draft letter from the committee co-chairs reads.
Letter to the Editor, Seattle Times
“While Seattle heads into a doubtless lengthy debate over the right price for linkage fees, up-zoning costs us nothing, can be implemented now and is legal.”
Article on the report produced by Gardner Economics with the Coalition for Housing Solutions on revenue the City of Seattle takes in from new development.
BY MARC STILES
The Coalition for Housing Solutions released its report seven weeks before Murray’s Housing Affordability and Living Agenda (HALA) panel is due to release its long-term plan to address the city’s housing crisis. Murray appointed the 28-member panel last fall, and this spring he issued his call to build 50,000 new housing units over 10 years.
The Seattle Times hosted an online panel and took questions from participants around affordable housing in Seattle. Read the full discussion here.
“Most of the group recommends not moving forward with several of the proposed low-rise code corrections that would directly reduce the amount of buildable square footage in the low-rise zones,” states the letter from HALA Co-chair Faith Pettis
The tyranny of small decisions (generally well-meaning, one-off policies that can create real costs and limitations when taken together) and the tyranny of local government (in the form of neighborhood NIMBYism) are combining to limit and add expense to affordable rental development, according to participants in a recent Zillow roundtable discussion.
Read our statement on the ambitious 10-year housing goal set by Mayor Murray.
Mayor Ed Murray announced an ambitious goal to add 50,000 housing units in the city of Seattle Thursday. The units would phase in over the next ten years through partnerships with the non-profit, public and private sectors.
Under Murray’s plan, 20,000 of those units would qualify as affordable housing and 30,000 will be market rate. Exactly how those numbers will be achieved is still unclear, left largely to the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee (HALA). Their recommendations are due in May.
Right now, the Multi-Family Tax Exemption is one incentive the city has been offering developers for some years – if they agree to keep a certain number of units in their projects in certain areas (including West Seattle’s urban villages/centers) at a certain percentage of the area’s median income, they get a 12-year tax break, no property taxes on the residential portion of their buildings.
The Seattle Metro Chamber joined the 23 other businesses and organizations that make up the Coalition for Housing Solutions to send a letter to City of Seattle leaders offering a host of potential actions that would help increase housing affordability in Seattle.
This letter represents the culmination of a series of workshops and economic research done by the Coalition, and the full list of suggestions is in the letter’s appendix.
Alarmed by rising rents, housing advocates Monday unveiled a long list of proposals to make Seattle more affordable.
They ranged from issuing $500 million in city bonds for affordable housing to rent control, or stabilization, which is now illegal under state law.
Players in Seattle’s real-estate industry and advocates for low-income housing are ratcheting up the pressure on Mayor Ed Murray as the May 30 deadline for his task force to issue recommendations on the city’s housing-affordability woes draws closer.
The business people and activists are pushing in opposite directions on several issues, including a proposed fee on developers and local rent control. There also are a few areas where the frequent combatants are beginning to overlap.
Isn’t it weird that…at a time when affordable housing is arguably the most pressing issue in the city, the mayor announced today that he’s turning housing property into a park. There’s nothing wrong with parks, but in a city with limited land that’s simultaneously resistant to density, it’s a blown opportunity.
A draft of the letter obtained by PubliCola states: “Utilization of publicly owned land: The City of Seattle and other public agencies own significant parcels of vacant or underutilized land capable of supporting infill housing. There are a variety of models and partnership arrangements that the city could utilize to develop affordable housing on publicly owned land.”
“If the comprehensive plan amendments and the new tax are adopted as proposed, there will be a substantial dampening effect on the ability to provide housing in the city, to provide smart growth development, and to develop successful mass transit,” states the coalition’s appeal, which attorney Rich Hill drafted.
Updating the Seattle City Council’s housing committee Thursday on the progress of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee, city officials presented feedback from three community meetings and early results from an online public survey.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee has reached consensus on a two-sentence problem statement. But the panel’s members have a long way to go in accomplishing their mission.
Housing affordability is one of the toughest challenges that Seattle and other cities in the region are currently facing. It threatens everything that makes the Puget Sound region a great place to live — our diversity, our openness, our culture, our environment and our economic competitiveness.
Seattle is the fastest-growing city in America, with over 1,000 new residents joining us each month. These days, the city skyline is defined as much by construction cranes as it is by the Space Needle. The population boom has brought with it a surge in housing costs; Seattle is now the #1 city for rising median rent.
The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) and a broad coalition of partner organizations have been vocal with concerns about the legality of the council imposing this housing tax, and its ramifications on renters and buyers in Seattle. With an estimate imposing this housing tax will result in rent increase for 90 percent of Seattle renters, there is concern that Council is approaching this problem from the wrong angle.
Of course, the plan has its critics. Most developers hate it (natch), and Roger Valdez, director of Smart Growth Seattle, says the plan is illegal and will drive up prices for everyone. Will Monday’s council vote matter? Here are two reasons it will, and one big reason it won’t.
The Council voted 7-2 to in favor of a resolution stating its intent to implement a “linkage fee” program. Under such a program, the city would charge the fees on new commercial and multi-family residential construction in denser parts of the city. Developers argue that the cost of the fees would jack up rental and purchase prices for property, undermining the Council’s affordability goals. And in a letter sent to council members last week, a group of land use attorneys questioned whether the envisioned fees are even legal under state law.
Seattle is a compassionate city faced, like all growing cities, with an affordable housing challenge. Most Seattleites hope to see their city successfully tackle that challenge with effective programs that help those most in need. But unfortunately, translating such good intentions into action is all too often distorted by politics. And the latest case in point is City Council’s rush to enact a “linkage fee.”
This Monday, the Seattle City Council is set to vote on a housing “linkage fee” — a tax on development to fund low-income housing. Given that it got all five votes out of committee, passage seems reasonably certain. As a member of team density, I’m supposed to hate this proposal. It does have its problems, but I think there are strong arguments ($) on both sides.
Talk about a tough audience.
On Thursday, Mike O’Brien, the chairman of a Seattle City Council committee that’s looking at taxing real estate development to fund affordable housing, sat in front of 400 people, many of them developers, to explain why they might soon have to pay a “linkage fee.” New residential, office or retail development in high-growth areas could be required to pay money into a fund to build affordable units.
If Jonathan Swift were alive and writing satire about American culture and politics, he might devote at least a chapter to Seattle’s latest public debate over housing. Perhaps in Swift’s story would be about an adventurer, like Gulliver, seeking new and strange lands washing up on an island where people genuinely believed adding costs to expensive things makes them cheaper, building more housing makes rents go up, and taxing new housing is the best way to lower rents.
What is Mike O’Brien proposing to solve perceived rent increases? He wants to impose a tax of anywhere from $8 to $22 per square foot for any new construction in Seattle. So a 10,000 square foot development in Capitol Hill, for instance, would pay a fee of $120,000 to $150,000. As we pointed out when we were asking to keep microhousing out of the design review process, all the extra fees just end up getting folded into rents. There is no other way to make up the costs. No, taking less “profit” isn’t an option, because lenders and investors set Net Operating Income (NOI). When the ratio of costs to income goes up, banks and investors expect it to be off set with more income: that means higher rents.
BY DANIEL BEEKMAN
For the better part of the past decade, both advocates and policymakers have been decrying Seattle’s perceived lack of housing affordable to people with incomes in the lower-middle range—so-called “workforce housing.” As a result, Seattle has implemented and is continuing to expand a program known as Incentive Zoning intended to create subsidized workforce housing through fees imposed on new development.