Affordable Housing in Seattle.

In 2006 King County issued a report on housing, called the <a href=””>King County Housing Benchmarks report.</a>  The report says exactly what you would expect but the details are interesting.  For example median income families accounted for only 10 per cent of home purchases in 2005 with a shift to condominium sales that is driving that market.

There are about 100,000 families for whom there is no affordable housing.  Between 2000 and 2004 homelessness increased at the rate of about 500 people per year.  With all the foreclosures I presume that this number has recently increased significantly.  (Nationally the homeownership percentages dramatically increased between 1998 and 2005, and have steadily declined in subsequent years as the foreclosure crisis blossomed.)

These numbers would be worse if the city and county did not have programs to ameliorate the problem.  In recent years the county in conjunction with partnership programs with cities have been adding about 700 affordable housing units per year.

Seattle has attacked this problem rather aggressively with results exceeding  expectations.  The cornerstone of Seattle’s approach is the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE), as revised in 2004.  The Seattle Office of Housing reports that over 1200 units have been created for people at or below 60% of the median income.  This is over three times the number of units required to be built by developers.  The reason for the high number of low income units is that non-profit institutions undertaken this type of construction.  Nonprofits determined that costs could be dramatically reduced when the MFTE indirect tax subsidy was combined with other direct subsidies such as city Housing Levy funds that require them to build only low and moderate income housing. Thus, the nonprofit organization has proven to be a highly efficient means of providing low income housing.

Mayor Nichels, long the developers’ friend, has proposed some revisions to the well-functioning program for low income families.  These revisions will increase the amount of rent to be charged for low income housing, expand the target areas to include areas developers have targeted for multi-family housing, and enhance subsidies to for profit developers, thereby reducing the role of non-profit organizations in providing affordable housing for lower income families.  All this at increased cost to the taxpayer on a per-unit basis.

Contact the council members and show Nick Licata your support as he takes on the mayor and the big developers.

Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to
send an email to the Mayor’s Office.


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