Mayor puts a number on ‘affordable housing’: 20,000 units in 10 years

Will runaway rents chase (more) people out of the city? With heartbreaking tales like this one emerging, and discussions like this one ongoing, Mayor Murray has stepped up While his affordable-housing advisory committee continues to work on its recommendations, Mayor Murray has just given them a goal with a specific number:

Mayor Murray today directed the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee to meet his new goal for both income-restricted affordable and market-rate units to be created over the coming decade.

Mayor Murray asked the committee to develop specific proposals that will allow the building and preservation of 50,000 housing units over in the next 10 years within the city limits. 20,000 of these must be income-restricted affordable units for individuals and families making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) and below. 30,000 units would be market rate.

“Seattle is facing a serious lack of affordable housing options that displace families and people in this city,” said Murray. “Next week, Seattle’s minimum wage workers are getting a raise as a part of our broader affordability agenda. We need to make sure that those who work in Seattle can afford to live here.”

The increase in income-restricted affordable units is nearly a tripling of the current rate of units being built for those at 80 percent of AMI or less. Currently, income-restricted affordable housing is being built at a rate of around 700 units per year.

“As the HALA enters the last stretch of analysis and discussion of strategies, this target will sharpen our focus,” said Faith Le-Pettis, co-chair of the advisory committee. “No matter your perspective, the target we’ve been given by the Mayor is an enormous number. We’ll need determination, long-sightedness and civic commitment to meet the challenge.”

The Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee was formed by Mayor Murray and city councilmembers in the fall of 2014 to develop policy recommendations for the city. The committee is made up of 28 housing experts, activists and community leaders. They will issue their recommendations to the Mayor in May.

Right now, the Multi-Family Tax Exemption is one incentive the city has been offering developers for some years – if they agree to keep a certain number of units in their projects in certain areas (including West Seattle’s urban villages/centers) at a certain percentage of the area’s median income, they get a 12-year tax break, no property taxes on the residential portion of their buildings.

When we talked to Mayor Murray at his neighborhood-press availability last week, he mentioned he would be announcing an affordable-housing goal and that it would take “a series of tools – not just one tool” to make it reality. He said in that interview that it would be vital to build units for people who will “never qualify for subsidized housing” but are being priced out of the “market” nonetheless.

42 Replies to "Mayor puts a number on 'affordable housing': 20,000 units in 10 years"

  • Ray March 26, 2015 (2:06 pm)

    Seems like the City Council is trying to create de facto rent control of a sorts via these actions.

    Will be interesting to see if there are any legal challenges from developers as this causes them direct financial harm.

  • birdgeek March 26, 2015 (2:42 pm)

    Holy cow: that link to the Seattle Weekly “Dear Landlord” piece has me reeling. Deeply troubling. :(

    • WSB March 26, 2015 (3:14 pm)

      Janice Harper, the author, e-mailed yesterday to point it out; I’d been looking since last night for a context in which to share it (the other link, to a discussion thread in our Forum, includes it too). I’d been researching current apartment-building listings as a possible context and then this came in …

  • jetcitydude March 26, 2015 (3:15 pm)

    They won’t be affordable ten years from now. It was supposed to happen ten years ago. Don’t be fooled.

  • Azimuth March 26, 2015 (3:25 pm)

    Agreed birdgeek, the Seattle Weekly article is quite a read. Is that the space that is becoming a new restaurant?

  • CEA March 26, 2015 (3:29 pm)

    Birdgeek, I’m with you – I had the same reaction to Janice’s article. WSB, thank you for sharing the link and raising awareness.

  • Sue March 26, 2015 (3:37 pm)

    While a good start, anybody like myself who is “regular middle class” – not under the low income guidelines, but still does not earn enough for $3,000/month apartments – is still screwed. We do need low income housing, but we also need some sort of reasonable cap on how much rents can be raised for existing tenants who are in good standing.

  • JanS March 26, 2015 (3:59 pm)

    Ray? Cause developers financial harm/ Are you serious? And the financial harm to renters? I’ve been in my building for 15 years…rent has gone up 33% since last Sept. 01….fixed income here…obviously you live in a different world. This city says “how high” when developers say “Jump!”. They get anything they want, because , you know, development and growth are so wonderful, even if this city’s infrastructure (and people) can’t handle it. Give me an effing break !

  • JanS March 26, 2015 (4:02 pm)

    and…10 years? why not 2 or 3…stop talking about it, dear city, and start acting on it. Time’s awastin’…in 10 years this will be a city of only elites…too little too late !

  • wsguy March 26, 2015 (4:03 pm)

    What is the Mayor’s definition of “Market Rate”? It seems like the current market rate is pretty high – his definition is probably something different. Then does the city reimburse owners for the difference between what the current market rents are and “income restricted” rent rate and “Market Rate” rent rates are?

    Not sure how that works…

  • Ms. Sparkles March 26, 2015 (4:06 pm)

    I found Janice Harper’s article a little ham-handed with traces of whiney entitlment. But it does mention somthing I’ve wondered about for years; what motivates people to rent for decades when rents are the same as, or higher, than mortgage payments?
    I know not everyone has the capital for a down payment, but when average rents for a 1 bedroom apartment exceed the mortgage on a $345,000 home, when does that push some past the financial tipping point?
    I understand apartment living when you’re still trying to find your way, uncertain where you’ll land, but once you’re settled – long term renting is NEVER a good financial decision. Why pay the landlord in rents over 25 years what it would’ve cost to buy a house?
    To add an exclaimation point to Sue’s comment – $3,000 is almost twice the amount of interest and principal I pay for my mortgage and still $700 more than I pay total including property taxes & insurance. That makes no sense.

  • Diane March 26, 2015 (4:23 pm)

    gee, isn’t that lovely; another press conference, with LONG long long range plans
    remember that 10 yr plan to end homelessness; how did that work out?
    we have an emergency; we have an affordable housing crisis right now; 100’s of Seattle residents are being displaced now; what will Mayor Murray do right now? action steps right now; renters are being forced out of their homes right now
    people living in affordable units now are being forced out, being displaced; we need immediate solutions; we cannot just wait to “build units for people”; people in our city are being displaced/forced out by insane rents right now; it takes years to build new affordable housing; what will the Mayor do right now?

  • West Seattle Hipster March 26, 2015 (4:51 pm)

    Reading some of the comments to the article was almost as depressing as the article itself.


    Clearly our mayor is in over his head.

  • FreGirl March 26, 2015 (4:53 pm)

    We already know we will probably have to leave West Seattle next year, even though we don’t want to live anywhere else! Our landlord company Cayce just told us and everyone else in our building they are raising rent by 100 a month now, and 100 more a month next year, and more after that. Rents anywhere near where we live, on the must have bus lines for a two bedroom in WS are now at least five hundred a month more than when we came just a few short years ago. We are very sad. No way we can afford anything here we would be willing to live in.

  • neighbor March 26, 2015 (6:22 pm)

    I feel the same way. I’m scared of how much cost of living has gone up here and real estate/housing is a big chunk of piece. I’m beginning to think I can’t even afford my 12 year old car what with insurance and the parking tickets I occasionally get. These rich people are morally bankrupt. I thought I was middle class but if I’m living so close to the edge then I must not be. I don’t have fancy things or a high spending life style either. it is very depressing. It feels like the rich would want the poor to kill themselves off then they won’t have to see it and don’t have to take care of them. As soon as you can’t be gainfully employed, then BOOM kicked to the curb. And its hard to find a good job after a certain age.

  • JayDee March 26, 2015 (6:49 pm)

    When you drive down California in the shadow of the 6-story, block-long apartment building remember that Cayce (and Gain) was responsible for the re-zoning and the architect exploited a loop hole to make it that tall. Someday it will be flanked on the west side by a nearly equally big apartment building. Greed casts a long shadow, and in this case (or should I say, Cayce?) the legacy will be a dark icy slot.

    The 2007 WSB interview is quaint.

  • evergreen March 26, 2015 (6:51 pm)

    Sue, I completely agree. We are dual income, well-employed and still struggling with the high cost of housing. People in the middle are often hardest hit.

  • Zanda March 26, 2015 (6:53 pm)

    I knew the guy in the article. I’ve enjoyed lots of walks with him along Beach Drive – and countless bus rides on the 53. Today I waited later at work to come home on the last 37 because it’s driven by the last guy who drove the 53. It’s a very sad day.

  • Chris W March 26, 2015 (8:33 pm)

    I think I just signed my last lease in WS. Which breaks my heart. It’s the best place I’ve ever lived.

  • Sue March 26, 2015 (8:35 pm)

    Ms. Sparkles, I wish I was in a position to buy a home and not have to rent anymore. But I’m in my 50s, newly-divorced (one income) and have no down payment. I’m trying to pay my bills, deal with some health challenges, and attempt to save for retirement so I won’t someday be a burden to the system. I once did the math for a modest home and what it would cost me. I would pretty much pay every extra cent I had into the home, with no money for vacations, extra luxuries of any kind, nor any type of cushion for home repairs. I would also have to work until nearly 80. I decided that this was not the way I wanted to live the rest of my life, paycheck to paycheck, and praying that nothing catastrophic happened. I’m happy for those who have different life circumstances and could afford those things at one time in their lives.
    I recently saw a home for sale near Westwood Village that was nearly $300,000, and the photos showed it filled with garbage and all the walls with huge, gaping holes and other damage. I was horrified at the condition of it, and that a broker wouldn’t even pick up garbage before photographing it. And yet it sold. I’ve come to terms with renting, and know expenses will go up. Just once though, I’d like my annual expenses to not go up several times what my annual raise is. I will never get ahead at this point and just go deeper into the middle class hole.

  • dsa March 26, 2015 (10:07 pm)

    This is a depressing thread. I agree with Diane. What can the mayor (or anyone) do now?

  • crisis? March 26, 2015 (10:30 pm)

    I am curious about how everyone suddenly started using the word “crisis” to describe Seattle rents. I don’t think it’s a crisis because I look at other major west coast cities, and Seattle is still cheap in comparison, even with the recent large rent hikes. Look at rents in LA, SF, or even San Diego (Portland is a bit cheaper, but it isn’t a major coastal city).

    So is the “crisis” more about the rate of increase than the actual rent level?

  • AS March 26, 2015 (11:11 pm)

    This is all very worrisome and my husband and I just took possession of a new apartment because our current rental him is being sold and though were going into an apartment we are having to pay more than our current home. Rents around here are ridiculous. I am not surprised by the comments about Cayce. We applied for a rental home through them and were denied and were not treated very well. When I complained and asked to be reimbursed for our credit app fees I was told by the president that his employees didn’t treat us unfairly and would not be giving us back our $50. I’m pretty appalled that bringing poor customer service to their attention wasn’t enough for them to give us back our $50. It angers me they can be that rude and still take our money and not even care. Our new place has treated us with nothing but kindness. I am not surprised to hear they played a role in the new building.

  • Sue March 26, 2015 (11:12 pm)

    Crisis, I think it’s the rate and frequency of increases. JanS mentions above that her rent has gone up 33% in 7 months. 9 years ago I was renting a townhouse in WS (2BR with garage) for $995. That same townhouse is now renting for $1630. That’s over 60% more. How many people’s salaries have increased at that rate? Yes, housing is more in, say, San Francisco, but the median salary in my line of work is also about 15% more than here.

  • Zanda March 26, 2015 (11:21 pm)

    I never think of Seattle as a coastal city…..them mountains across the way must be a hallucination. That would have made Bill laugh.

    Seriously though, when it costs so much more for rent than paying a mortgage it suggests to me that something is very broken. I have signed up for one of the Homesight homebuying classes. I never wanted to be a homebuyer again – not after being underwater for 10 years in Massachusetts after the economy went under there in 1988 – and after another troubling experience in another state.

    I really wanted to be a renter the rest of my life – and save money for retirement. It now makes more sense to buy – but I hate to have to go down that road again.

    One glimmer of hope I see is that new apartment buildings in Belltown are offering move-in inducements, such as a couple of months free rent. They clearly don’t have people waiting in line to sign leases.

    I’m hoping that West Seattle’s lousy bus service and horrendous morning rush hour will become known enough that apartment buildings here have trouble filling vacancies as all the Amazon migrants choose to live elsewhere – leaving a lot of unrented space! And it will serve the greedy developers right.

  • Eric1 March 26, 2015 (11:36 pm)

    Depressing thread yet reality dictates that prior planning is required to deal with the inevitable.
    I moved here 20+ years ago because I would never have been able to aford a house from where I came from. Likewise, I know that there is a distinct possibility that my children will not be able to live in Seattle when they grow up. Such is life. I am not sorry I left my old home and frankly, I am better off for it. Perhaps they will be better off as well, time will tell.
    I also know I won’t be able to retire here. Twenty plus years and my property taxes are at least 5X what they started out as. Twenty more years and my taxes will exceed my mortgage. The solution? Downsize or move? Perhaps both.
    Growing cities do just that, they grow. Young people move in, rents go up and people complain. Imagine what Boeing did 50 years ago: so was with Microsoft 20 years ago and Google today. Who knows what new company will come tomorrow but I hope they come because I don’t want Seattle to become Detroit II.
    There are many of you that will have a similar story of why they came to Seattle for a brighter future. I have met the enemy and he is us.

  • Question March 27, 2015 (1:05 am)

    I have a question for those of you that are whining about the cost of living increases. Who are you blaming? The people that made the laws that allow this? You voted for them so this on would be on you. Are you blaming the people that are willing to pay more for housing? Guess what, this would also be on you. Amazon is the biggest driver of housing costs in Seattle. This is a fact. Another fact? You are sending money to Amazon this very second. Yes, you! Do you see any photos in the articles on this page? Now look at where the photos are hosted. For those of you that don’t know how to look this up, the answer is Amazon. Is Amazon evil for providing hosting services to this website? Or, do you not understand how things actually work? Yes, everyone has the right to live in any neighborhood they want in this country, IF they can pay for it. Another fact: people have the right to sell or rent their property for however much they want. Deal with it.

    • WSB March 27, 2015 (1:33 am)

      FYI since you bring it up. Our images are not hosted by Amazon. They are uploaded to the main server (which is physically located in Chicago, at a company called WiredTree) and then via some wizardry I don’t quite understand, the images are cached/served by a CDN (content distribution network – ) via Amazon Web Services, something a consultant working with us a couple years ago set up because traffic surges were crashing our server due to all the images that had to be called for on each page (including our ads). He chose Amazon, I don’t know if we had other options; it was one of the suggestions in the caching plug-in we use. Amazon charges us about $80 a month for this portion of our technical underpinnings (a fraction of our overall hosting/serving costs). It solved the crashing problem. Some of the changes we’ll be making later this year might render the CDN unnecessary. Not that you asked, but since you mention it … TR

  • RealityBites March 27, 2015 (6:46 am)

    @Ms. Sparkles,
    Please allow me to explain the reality of the situation from the perspective of someone on SSI who has never, and probably will never be able to own their own home.

    Social Security imposes restrictions on us. A single person may not save more than $2,000 in their bank account. Houses cost much more than this, also SS will count the house and property as an asset, which will deduct further from the already paltry pittance. Add in property taxes, plus maintenance and upkeep of the home (leaky roof? Plumbing or electrical problems? Yard care?), and it is all over but for the crying.
    This is why it makes more sense for someone like me to rent.

    For the curious, I was looking to move here so have been looking at the blog from time to time, but perhaps it’s not the best idea right now.

  • Hosting March 27, 2015 (9:33 am)

    Sorry, WSB images really are hosted on Amazon. Take this image as an example: resolves to A quick ARIN lookup will show you the owner of this address:

  • Enviromaven March 27, 2015 (9:53 am)

    Thank you to Janice Harper, the Weekly, and the WS Blog. I fear that Bill’s story is going to be repeated as lower income seniors get squeezed out of this housing market. Many of us are teetering on the edge of homelessness due to chronic illness, disability, etc. I say this after obtaining an excellent education and working for years. It’s amazing how quickly stereotypes surrounding subsidized housing break down when one finds oneself in this situation.

  • Sue March 27, 2015 (10:55 am)

    Zanda, I also signed up for the Homesight class (the one in May). I’d love to see what miracle they can pull that can get me and my lack of money into buying a home that won’t bankrupt me. Not holding my breath, but I’m open to the possibility.

  • Diane March 27, 2015 (11:55 am)

    so, I just won the lottery; the King County Housing Authority lottery that is; me and another 2500 lucky winners; I’m #565; my letter says the “estimate as to when you will be invited to document your eligibility and receive your voucher” “351-800, Oct 2015 to March 2016”
    “document your eligibility” is bureaucratic speak for another process of “prove you’re poor”
    the last time the Seattle Housing Authority opened their lottery, a few years ago, I applied; and received letter along with 23,000 others who lost that lottery, “sorry”
    the SHA lottery just opened again this week; I applied again; we’ll see how it goes this time
    what I’ve learned about the KCHA and SHA vouchers, even if you are a lucky lottery winner; most landlords will not accept the vouchers; yes, they discriminate; and they are allowed to discriminate; there is no law to require landlords to rent to a person who needs housing and has a voucher in hand; even if that person can pay, has a job, has income, is responsible; landlords can simply discriminate and say “no vouchers”; so even for the 2500 out of 25,000 who are lucky enough to win the housing lottery, it’s still no guarantee of getting an apt; if no landlords will take the vouchers, it’s sort of like winning the real lottery, but no one will take your money

  • WS since '66 March 27, 2015 (12:14 pm)

    To all the naysayers, whiners, those who can’t find perspective or think things through I hate to be the one that breaks the news to you but Seattle is a world class city, commerce hub, and the economic engine for our state. There is an article in today’s Seattle Times about how many are moving to Tacoma for all the amenities you fantasize about.

    Btw, in 1970 Greater Seattle had Population of 1,238,000. According to the 2010 census we grew to 3,446,000. Let’s see if you can figure it out.

    • WSB March 27, 2015 (12:43 pm)

      Please be kind to each other. “Whiners” is unnecessarily derogatory. These topics are tough enough, and as noted in one of our links above, can become a matter of life and death. As for population growth, I’m sure that’s an accurate stat but do note that (as Jim likely knows but others might not realize) it represents the greater metro area, not just the city limits. The population within the city limits is currently estimated at 640,500, per this city webpage with lots of other demographic info:

  • Diane March 27, 2015 (5:21 pm)

    “Whiners” is flat out name calling; I see far too many comments calling other commenters “Whiners” on nearly every story; highly offensive
    and yes, this story is partly about a neighbor who died, and people losing their homes; highly inappropriate in this context
    thank you TR

  • Mml March 27, 2015 (10:31 pm)

    Hate to
    Say it but maybe we need another major economic downturn to take down all this overdevelopment.

  • John March 28, 2015 (9:18 am)

    I agree “whiners” should be replaced with “concerns”.

    But to be fair, the use of “greedy developers” also all too common and highly offensive could perhaps be replaced with “entrepreneur” or “small business owner”.

    On this story as a whole, as paraphrased by Dan Savage, “anyone who professes concern about homelessness while opposing development, is a hypocrite.”

  • civik March 28, 2015 (5:36 pm)

    John, Dan Savage is absolutely wrong. New development creates increased rents which pushes lower income brackets out of the city. I don’t know if a homeless person can afford a micro-tenement room.

  • WS since '66 March 29, 2015 (1:17 pm)

    Civik, it’s all relative. Without the increase in development (supply) and with the same number of buyers/tenants (demand) it’s a no brainier the rents (cost) would be higher than they are now. Or to put it another way that’s too many consumers chasing after too few goods thereby raising the value (costs) of each.

Sorry, comment time is over.