Starting this week, the mayor-appointed group tasked with producing an affordable housing plan for Seattle by May 2015 is digging in with a series of public meetings.
While past city efforts to create more affordable housing have targeted Seattle’s poorest, City Hall officials say the Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory Committee will be considering a much wider band Seattle residents — a band that should include many on Capitol Hill.
Yes, even you.
In the lead-up to forming the committee, Mayor Ed Murray invoked the need to support longtime residents and those who choose, and may one day choose, to make Seattle home. In other words, working stiffs trying to eek it out in increasingly expensive neighborhoods.
Here’s a look at the income levels for one and two person households that the committee will be targeting:
On Thursday some of the 28 committee members will be at the Garfield Community Center for a public meeting to hear what you want and need from a plan. The mayor won’t be making an appearance.
In convening a crowded, multi-disciplined committee, the mayor and council appear to have taken a page out of the $15 minimum wage playbook — though this time, Dave Meinert isn’t invited. They’ve also apparently applied a lesson from that experience: Don’t talk policy specifics until the plan is out (after all, there will be plenty of time to debate actual legislation… later).
Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos, who was appointed to the affordability committee, wouldn’t endorse any policies or say if the committee would take up the issue of rent control. She did tell CHS she hopes to bring some practical developer experience to to table, along with an understanding of the needs of Capitol Hill’s workforce and families.
“When we’re leasing buildings it’s always our most expensive and low income units that go first. We’d love to lease those middle ones faster,” she said. “We want a mix, but if people are pushed out of that mix, it becomes less exciting and interesting.”
Despite recent reports that Seattle and Capitol Hill have the fastest rising rents in the nation, Seattle’s building explosion may be catching up with demand. Just in the past few weeks, Barrientos said she and other developers have seen a market resistance to higher rents.
“We’ve started to see a cap on what people are willing to pay, there’s a lot more supply for people,” she said. “I don’t think rents will continue to grow in the next year.”
Whether or not that’s true, Barrientos said rents remain unaffordable for many residents on Capitol Hill and the committee should address that.
In September, the City Council laid out a minimum set of expectations for the committee, which included:
- Determine current and estimated needs for affordable rental and homeownership housing according to household size and income, as follows: up to 30% AMI, greater than 30% of AMI to 60% AMI, greater than 60% of AMI to 80% AMI, and, if data is available, greater than 80% of AMI.
- Study current and estimated housing development, both income/rent-restricted and market-rate.
- Study current and estimated funding for affordable housing in Seattle and estimated net-new affordable housing.
- Recommend new programs or policies targeted to market-rate housing development and projected impact on housing affordability.
- Recommend new funding, programs, or policies for affordable housing production and preservation.
- Recommend plans for preserving existing affordable housing, subsidized by any source or naturally occurring.
- Recommend plans to increase access to permanent housing for people who are currently homeless.
The committee is expected to issue a report on their findings by May 2015.
As the mayor’s committee gets to work, other efforts are already underway on the affordable housing front. In October the City Council passed a resolution stating the council’s intent to draft a so-called linkage fee program and instructs relevant city departments to start drawing up the plans. The program would place a fee on new construction in Seattle in order to expand the city’s affordable housing efforts.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Housing Authority is considering steep rent hikes for some of its public housing tenants. Last week, the mayor nominated Capitol Hill Community Council vice president Zachary Pullin to the SHA board.
The affordability committee will meet Thursday from 6 PM – 8:30 PM in the Garfield Community Center, 2323 E Cherry St. You can learn more at murray.seattle.gov/housing/