Creating Affordable Housing

Affordable housing should offer both middle- and low-income options.

Housing in Seattle has become too expensive. Too many people just cannot afford to live here. Houses cost too much and rents are sky high. Some of those who are lucky enough to own homes have seen their property taxes increasing to amounts that are not affordable. People are getting locked out and pushed out of Seattle.

We need to create more housing options in this city and also must stop the huge displacement of people that growth and increased prices are causing. I strongly believe that means both low income and middle class options. This problem will only grow as our population grows and scarce housing makes things much worse. While we need to do more as a City, we cannot come close to solving this problem without the private market and developers stepping up.

The good news is we can use growth to help get more affordable housing. Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation and we have more new construction happening here than almost anywhere in the U.S. New requirements on developers will result in more affordable units and millions of dollars targeted for affordable housing options thanks to the diverse stakeholders (for-profit developers, non-profit affordable housing developers, social justice, labor, and businesses) who together forged the Seattle Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). HALA provides our city with a blueprint for adding 20,000 new units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. Strong partnerships at the local, regional and state level will be critical to our success as will the participation of private housing developers.

I support implementation of all the “highest impact recommendations” in the HALA report. As Mayor, I will aggressively pursue an affordable housing agenda that builds on HALA, but which makes sure we get the promised benefits and that we lessen impacts to neighborhoods:

1. Ensure effective implementation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirement

The MHA is the cornerstone of HALA that will create 6,000 new units of affordable housing by requiring developers to either build affordable units into their designs or pay into a special fund that supports construction of lower-income units by city or non-profit agencies. As Mayor, I will make sure we use that money wisely. And while we may need to adjust impacts, I will fight any attempt to go backward.

2. Advocate for key property tax reforms 

I will explore ways to go to Olympia and reduce the property tax burden for older homeowners, lower income owners and landlords providing affordable housing.

3. Support transit-oriented development

We need to make sure that a mix of all housing, including affordable housing continues to be close to transit hubs and services. I support the HALA recommendations to ensure affordable housing is built downtown and in urban villages—especially in areas within walking distance to transit. I also want to explore the promise in ST 3 of planning for density around stations and transit corridors. This must include vibrant new neighborhoods, with small businesses and restaurants.

4. Diversify and expand housing options

We should always be looking at innovative ways to expand our housing options in the city. We need to explore more permitted mother-in-laws and accessory dwelling units. Housing options such as duplexes, townhouses, or courtyard communities can help grow a vibrant and robust community. I am interested in exploring ways to make these additional types of housing more feasible in our city.

We need to understand the impacts of these proposals, by listening to communities and neighborhoods. We need robust input and engagement. We also can get information from owners of current backyard cottages in the Seattle area as well as peer cities with similar programs, such as Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Los Angeles, California.

 — Jenny Durkan