We advocate for measurable, comprehensive approaches to create affordable housing
Download our initial letter to the Mayor and City Council [PDF, file size 88kb]
Download our Recommended Strategies Report [PDF, file size 4mb]
Renew and increase the size
of the Seattle Housing Levy
The Housing Levy is Seattle’s most productive and stable source of affordable housing funding and is the envy of peer cities across the nation.
Create a MFTE program to preserve
existing affordable housing
76% of all rental units in Seattle are affordable to households making 80% of AMI, and 78% of those units are privately owned and not income restricted.
The City of Seattle and other public agencies own significant parcels of vacant or underutilized land capable of supporting infill housing.
Create funding capacity for land acquisition for affordable housing production
High land costs can make affordable housing projects cost-prohibitive in some areas of Seattle.
Upzone areas around transit investments
The taxpayers of the City of Seattle, King County and Sound Transit’s service area have invested billions in transit infrastructure to better connect
Refine the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program
The City’s MFTE program, along with the Housing Levy, has been one of Seattle’s most effective affordable housing programs.
Refine the incentive zoning code
The Incentive Zoning program is Seattle’s current experiment with funding affordable housing through developer fees. Unlike the proposed linkage fees, the incentive zoning program charges a per-square foot fee on a project’s “bonus” area in exchange for the authorization to build above base zoning height. 2014 studies indicate that 62% of eligible projects chose not to build above base zoning height – avoiding the incentive zoning fee and both producing fewer units and contributing less to affordable housing as a result. There are refinements that could be made to the existing incentive zoning program that could increase participation in the program, increase unit production and generate more revenue for affordable housing. These refinements include expanding the geographic scope of the incentive zoning program along with corresponding upzones; increasing flexibility on where income-eligible units are located within the building and within the neighborhood; examining whether more revenue could be generated by lowering the fee rate (thus incentivizing more participation in the program, which would in turn generate more housing production).
Re-establish a “Growth Fund”
The City of Seattle once dedicated a portion of General Fund revenue toward housing. Today, virtually none of the City’s General Fund is spent on housing. We would propose that, given the City’s stated priority of affordable housing, the City Council dedicate a specific percentage of all new revenues produced by development (through new property taxes and other revenue), be dedicated to affordable housing. This is similar to the “1% for the Arts” program that many governments have established for capital projects and expenditures. While the “1% for the Arts” program is triggered by an expenditure, the Growth Fund would instead be triggered by new revenue – specifically revenue from new development – a portion of which would be set aside for affordable housing. We are in the process of calculating the amount of revenue that could have been generated over the last several years if even a modest % had been dedicated to affordable housing.
Advocate for an increase in the state Housing Trust Fund
The Housing Trust Fund provides housing for low- and moderate-income households. The Housing Trust Fund is allocated through the state’s capital budget process and is funded by selling bonds.
Create housing “enterprise zones”
The City could establish targets and criteria for a program to develop housing “enterprise zones” where housing production – both market and subsidized – would be prioritized.
Expand opportunities for ADUs and microhousing
While the City of Seattle has recently adopted new regulations impacting the viability of microhousing, in particular, there is substantial demand for more flexible housing types in Seattle. This is one the ways the market has adapted to providing more affordable housing in Seattle’s densest urban neighborhoods in spite of high land costs.
Create more low-rise zoned capacity
This is another opportunity for considerable near-term unit production. This solution is a prime candidate for targeting production of family-sized housing.
Building, land use code and process reforms
A number of code and process reforms could be implemented to reduce the cost of providing housing in Seattle. For example, the length, complexity and uncertainty of the design review and alley vacation processes add to the cost of development, which in turn is reflected in the prices or rents residents pay. SEPA provides a set of tools that enable local agencies to expedite permitting of buildings that are consistent with adopted land use regulations. Projects for which the MFTE will be used should be SEPA exempt, which will further reduce timing, costs and uncertainty and allow for delivery of units at lower prices. We acknowledge that the City has made efforts in this area, but more can be done. We have a contingent within our coalition that would be happy to work with HALA to identify reasonable land use, process and building code reforms.