City of Seattle

Ed Murray, Mayor


SUBJECT:   Mayor provides update on affordable housing
2/22/2013  12:00:00 PM

Mayor provides update on affordable housing
Includes plan to promote affordability, an advisory group to review tax exemptions and zoning incentives

Mayor Mike McGinn today provided an update on affordable housing in Seattle, including a plan to guide the City’s work in promoting new housing, including affordable housing. McGinn also announced the creation of a new advisory group to review the City’s affordable housing incentive programs.

“We will bring together members of the community to look at how we can best meet the growing demand for housing, bringing the public and the private sector to help provide affordability,” said McGinn. “Working together, we can build great communities where people can afford to access the jobs and opportunities our city has to offer.”

The advisory group will bring together community members, affordable housing providers, developers and other experts. Along with staff from the City’s Department of Planning and Development and Office of Housing, the group will provide strategic guidance around the renewal of the Multi-Family Tax Exemption, recommend changes to citywide affordable housing zoning incentive programs, and recommend an adjustment to the incentive zoning fee-in–lieu formula. Members of the advisory group will be announced in the coming weeks.

Demand for housing is growing in Seattle as the city recovers from the recession. Seattle has been ranked the #1 city for tech jobs by Forbes, and was #4 nationwide in overall job creation in 2012, according to the US Department of Labor. Based on current trends, Seattle expects to add 115,000 jobs in the next 20 years. 23,335 units of housing have been added since 2005. 70,000 more housing units are projected to be built in the next 20 years, which would continue the average pace of development we’ve seen between 2005 and today. Increasing the housing supply is an important part of meeting this demand and helping provide more affordability.

The Seattle Housing Strategy includes four focus areas to make it easier for the public and private sectors to build housing that is affordable:

  • Optimize investments in affordable housing
    • Continue direct investment by renewing the Seattle Housing Levy in 2016
    • Strengthen the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program 
    • Revise the affordable housing zoning incentives city-wide, including adjusting the fee-in-lieu formula
  • Make publicly owned land available for housing
    • Continue to identify opportunities to use City-owned properties for affordable housing, engaging neighboring communities early in the development process.
    • Work with partner agencies to utilize other public property for housing, including transit oriented development work with Sound Transit. 
  • Reduce the cost of developing new housing
    • Continue further improvements to the permitting process by better aligning processes across City departments
    • Encourage more sustainable housing development that qualifies for the Priority Green Expedited or Facilitated review and permitting processes and expand this program to include upgrades to existing housing
    • Identify strategies to reduce or eliminate redundant or unnecessary processes or requirements
  • Foster an adequate and diverse supply of housing
    • Encourage compact development near frequent transit as we work with neighborhoods to consider station area plans, urban design frameworks, and zoning proposals
    • Explore options for encouraging a wider variety of housing types, particularly to address affordability and family housing. 

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