Councilmember Tim Burgess Councilmember Tom Rasmussen Councilmember Sally Bagshaw Councilmember Nick Licata Councilmember Bruce Harrell Councilmember Jean Godden Councilmember Richard Conlin Councilmember Mike O'Brien  Council President Sally J. Clark
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Linkage Fee Plan
Incentive Zoning
February 13 Forum

Workforce Housing

Affordable Workforce Housing


The City Council is currently undergoing a review of the affordable housing programs geared toward preserving/increasing the supply of housing affordable to moderate and low income households in Seattle that earning between 60%-100% Area Median Income (AMI).The purpose of this website is to provide a convenient source of information on the review and all of the public discussion.

For many residents, Seattle is becoming less affordable and housing costs are often the most burdensome expense.

Many retail and service workers that support Seattle's economic prosperity have difficulty living in the city where they work. Even nurses, teachers, construction workers and many other middle-wage workers face barriers to living in Seattle. For example, a public school teacher's starting salary of $42,000 suggests that he or she should not pay more than $1,050 per month (30%) for housing. Yet the average rent in Seattle for a 2 bedroom / 1 bath apartment is $1,466.

To better understand what the city can be doing to address the issue of affordable housing, the Council adopted Resolution 31444 in 2013 which called for "a thorough review and update of Seattle's incentive zoning and other affordable housing program and policies focused on creating affordable Workforce Housing by establishing an Expert Advisory Team that will advise and make recommendations to the City Council."

Recent/Upcoming Meetings

All meetings are in Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor of City Hall: 600 4th Avenue, unless otherwise noted. Sign up for meeting notifications and agendas online here.

  • Tuesday, September 16, 2:00pm:
    • Presentation of final consultant recommendations to the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee (PLUS)
    • Voted on a resolution stating the City's commitment to contribute $1 million to a regional transit-oriented development acquisition fund and support the expansion of accessory dwelling units. Adopted resolution available here.
  • Tuesday, September 30, 2:00pm: 2nd committee discussion on incentive zoning/housing linkage fee proposal.
  • Tuesday, October 14, 9:30am: 3rd committee discussion and vote on incentive zoning/housing linkage fee proposal.
  • Monday, October 20, 2pm: Full Council vote on incentive zoning/housing linkage fee proposal. Councilmember Mike O'Brien's thoughts on the proposal are available here.

Expert Advisory Team

The Expert Advisory Team consists of: Rick Jacobus and Joshua Abrams of Cornerstone Partnership; Kurt Creager of Otak, Inc, in partnership with Paul Peninger; and David Rosen and Nora Lake Brown of David Rosen and Associates. Full biographies of the Expert Advisory Team are available here.

The Expert Advisory Team is currently:

  • Documenting the current Seattle housing landscape
  • Reviewing the efficacy of existing affordable housing programs
  • Comparing Peer Cities to Seattle
  • Determining best practices in Incentive Zoning and Inclusionary Zoning
  • Evaluating best practices for other programs and policies meant to produce affordable housing
  • Performing economic analyses to measure impact of possible actions

Programs and ideas under the Expert Advisory Team's review include:

No single tool will meet all of Seattle's affordable housing needs, hence the comprehensive review underway.


Community Involvement



The input of local stakeholders, neighborhoods and residents making 60-100% AMI will be essential to getting these policies right.

Broader stakeholder and community engagement opportunities include:

  • Workforce Housing Forum, February 13: The Council hosted a half-day forum featuring national experts who discussed best practices in affordable housing production in growing urban centers like ours. Reports and video from the forum are available below.
  • Workforce Housing Listening Session, June 16: The Council hosted a listening session to hear directly from residents about their experience finding affordable housing in Seattle.
  • Offsite Committee Meeting and Public Comment, July 16, 6:30pm: The Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency committee meeting included presentations from the Office of Housing, the Tenants Union, and Ballard community members and included the opportunity for public comment. The meeting took place at the Ballard Community Center, 6020 28th Ave NW in Seattle.
  • Draft Recommendations Feedback Session, July 21, 6 p.m.: The expert teams presented draft recommendations at an evening workshop with an opportunity for community feedback.  The Feedback Session took place in the Bertha Knight Landes Room in Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave.
  • Council deliberation: Draft recommendations were presented in Council Briefings on Monday July 21 at 9:30 a.m. for feedback. Final recommendations came back to the Council on September 16 at 2 p.m. in the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. The Council will seek public comment and stakeholder input in its deliberation on the recommendations and on any implementing legislation.

Building a mixed-income city where workers can choose to live is critical to achieve our goals for environmental sustainability and economic and social prosperity. A single tool will not overcome our challenges of affordability. The City currently employs a wide variety of tools including the Housing Levy, the Multi-family tax exemption, incentive zoning etc. This review should bring greater clarity about the role each of these tools serves and how we can most effectively craft the policy/program design for each.

For questions/feedback, please contact Councilmember Mike O'Brien's aide, Esther Handy, at or (206) 684-8800.

February 13 Forum

On February 13, 2014 the Council hosted a half-day forum featuring national experts who discussed best practices in affordable housing production in growing urban centers like ours. The forum was part of a broader effort to examine workforce housing needs and policies in the city. Below are the links to the presentations and materials presented at the Forum.


Consultant Reports and Presentations

Panel A: New Strategies for Workforce Housing

Panel B: Best Practices for Incentive Zoning

Questions: Contact Esther Handy in Councilmember Mike O'Brien's Office:, 206-684-8800.

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