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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."

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.

  • Recommendations Development Workshop: In May the Council will host a workshop with all the expert teams to develop a set of final recommendations. There will be an opportunity for community feedback and engagement in this workshop.
  • Council deliberation: The final recommendations will come to the a joint meeting of the land use (Planning, Land Use and Sustainability) and housing (Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency) committees, expected to happen in early June. The Council will seek public comment and stakeholder input in its deliberation on the recommendations and on any implementing legislation.

For a detailed timeline for the Workforce Housing Citywide Review process, click here. (*note* schedule is subject to change*)

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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