Ensuring a supply of housing affordable to a diverse population is essential to creating an equitable, vibrant, and thriving community and a fundamental aim of the Comprehensive Plan. As stewards of the Comprehensive Plan, we advise the Mayor and City Council on multifaceted issues concerning housing.

Recent reports and recommendations

The Commission released its Family-Sized Housing Action Agenda in early 2014, prior to work of the City's Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee. Several strategies in our Family-Sized-Housing Action Agenda are consistent with the HALA recommendations and, if approved and implemented, could help ensure that the city remains accessible to families with a wide range of incomes.

We are pleased that the HALA recommendations package includes the renewal and expansion of the Multifamily Tax Exemption Program (MFTE). See the comments that the Commission provided on the MFTE proposal at the September 17th, 2015 public hearing.

We will update this webpage as the Commission reviews, and advises City leaders on, additional strategies to provide more affordable housing and housing choices.

Prior reports and recommendations

Affordable Housing Action Agenda

We believe that housing affordability is an integral part of good planning policies and essential to creating vibrant and livable neighborhoods. 

We recognize the large scale of the City's lack of affordable housing.  This report does not represent a complete solution for solving the problem, but instead presents specific strategies that would be substantial steps forward.  

Download the Affordable Housing Action Agenda here.

 As a follow up piece we also released the Action Agenda Addendum which you can find here.

Affordable Housing Action Agenda Logo

We support backyard cottages because they generally provide lower cost rental housing options, an opportunity for homeowners to offset the cost of their homeownership, and housing options for extended family members. 

Backyard Cottage Guide 

Backyard Cottage Report Logo

 "A Guide to Building a Backyard Cottage" helps a homeowner successfully design and build a backyard cottage.   

Subjects in the guide include:

  • site planning;
  • designing for privacy;
  • green design ideas;  and
  • sample designs and construction and permitting information. Download the full Guide here.

October 2009 - We followed up on our original letter to ensure that units would be available to more than just single occupants.  You can view our comments here.

September 2009 - We urged the City Council to support Backyard Cottage legislation as an important form of affordable housing.  You can view these comments here.

February 2006 - We supported the Southeast Seattle Detached Accessory Unit Pilot Project.  You can view our comments here.

In our initial efforts to understand the strengths and weaknesses of Detached Accessory Dwelling Units and Backyard Cottages we undertook a community process that culminated in the Housing Choices report.

Here is the Executive Summary of Full Report


Housing Seattle Report

We believe that Seattle is a stronger, more prosperous city when we have a diversity of people able to live and work here.  To that end we developed an action agenda for housing in the City.  It outlines strategies to address important gaps in the housing market and disparities that exist among certain segments of the population.  Report Available.

Housing Seattle Report Logo

Incentive Zoning

The Commission continues to be involved in the discussions around housing affordability and incentive zoning. 

October 2014 - We weighed in on the Linkage Fee draft resolution, read our comments here.

February 2007 - We provided recommendations that we believe can serve as a good starting point from which future discussions can occur.  We hope to spark debate and greater awareness about the opportunities that incentive zoning programs offer Seattle.  Incentive Zoning White Paper can be found here.

Incentive Zoning Recommendations Photo


We believe Microhousing fills an important niche in Seattle and should be embraced and encouraged in appropriately zoned parts of the city. While we are supportive of Microhousing, we continue to work with City planners to improve the final proposal.

April 2014 - Read our most recent comments on the final legislation.  Commission Support and Recommendations. 

August 2013 -  Commission Comments.

Our initial comments on Microhousing can be found here. June 2013 comment letter.

Multifamily Tax Exempt Program

April 2013 - In April 2013, the Commission wrote this letter about MFTE to the City Council's committee on housing matters, saying that the program is an important tool to retain in Seattle's toolbox, but needs some recalibrating.

January 2011 - The Multifamily Tax Exemption program has proven successful over the years in meeting housing goals and providing equitable housing throughout the City.  We support the renewal of this effective program.

June 2007 - Our recommendations on proposed changes to the Multifamily Tax Exemption.

Multifamily Housing

Since 2005 we have worked collaboratively with the City on their important efforts to update the Multifamily Housing code

Seattle will welcome 100,000 more residents in the next 20 years. Multifamily housing will be an important component in how we make this reality into a city that is thriving, vibrant and sustainable.

Respons to a Request from Council to Review Low Rise 3 Code Modifications
We took an indepth look at the recommendations proposed by the Department of Planning and Development and had specific recommendations on how the code might be modified. (Released April, 2013)

Response to a Request from Council to Review Large Lot development in Low Rise 1 and 2
We support a full review of Design Review requirements in Low Rise 1 and 2 and ask that Department of Planning and Development investigate how Design Review may help neighborhoods weigh in on new large lot projects. - (Released April, 2013)

Proposed update to lowrise zones
We support the Committee on the Built Environment's proposed changes to the lowrise zones that are part of the Multifamily Code Update. The proposed direction of the code update is a big step in the right direction to encourage well designed multifamily neighborhoods. Our recommendations - (Released March 22, 2010)

Revised legislation for Mid Rise and High Rise zones
We support Planning, Land Use & Neighborhoods Committee's (PLUNC) revisions to the Mid Rise and High Rise zones that provide more flexibility for highrise buildings, parking, sustainable development standards and the Green Factor. Our recommendations - (Released November 30, 2009)

Proposed changes to the multifamily code
We support the proposed legislation as a step in the right direction but suggest that more could be done related to parking, height, high rise zones, sustainable design and the Green Factor. Our Report - (Released October 2009)

City Council must be bolder and revise specific details of the proposed legislation before adopting it
Multifamily housing by its very nature creates denser and more compact neighborhoods that add significantly to sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint. Evidence abounds that this land use pattern positively affects personal transportation choices, supports public transit, and generally requires less energy per unit to build and maintain than a single family dwelling. Our comments - (Released July 7, 2009)

City Council must go further on Mid Rise and High Rise Code Changes
The high densities permitted in Seattle's Mid and High Rise zones can help make them lively and sustainable places to live. It is our belief that by simplifying regulations, reducing parking requirements, and encouraging affordable housing, the inherent qualities of these zones can be built upon. Our letter - (Released September 10, 2009)