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Seattle forms Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council to address ‘missing middle’ housing needs — UPDATE

(Image: City of Seattle)

When it comes to Seattle’s largest problems, Mayor Jenny Durkan likes to have a posse.

Durkan announced Monday morning that a newly formed Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council to address “missing middle” housing needs will meet for the first time later in the day at City Hall.

“As the City continues its focus on addressing housing needs for low-income residents, the Advisory Council will work to identify investment strategies and related tools to help close existing market gaps and attract significant capital investment to build more for-rent and for-sale homes that are affordable to Seattle’s middle-income wage earners,” the announcement reads.

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(Image: City of Seattle)

The announcement did not include a roster of participants.

As Seattle fine tunes its plans for upzoning in its densest neighborhoods as part of the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, a rallying cry for many both for and against the plan has been the so-called “missing middle.”

The Seattle Planning Commission’s Fall 2018 “Neighborhoods for All” report (PDF) describes the issue:

Seattle lacks small-scale multi-unit housing options often referred to as “the missing middle.” These multifamily developments have smaller unit footprints and share the cost of underlying land, offering a way to introduce affordable housing choices into areas where they are currently illegal. These housing types would make opportunities for walkable urban living more accessible to a broader range of incomes and address the changing needs and desires for a range of households through many life stages.

Currently, small-scale multifamily housing is restricted to about 12% of Seattle’s land zoned to allow residential uses, according to the report.

UPDATE: The mayor’s office has released more details of the council including its inaugural members.

The mayor’s office says the council will have five areas of emphasis as it pursues its recommendations:

  1. Identify the next steps necessary to increase housing choices affordable to middle-income individuals and families.
  2. Provide a compilation of middle-income housing strategies that could be advanced through new investment financing.
  3. Deliver recommendations on the architecture of potential new housing investment fund(s).
  4. Conduct outreach to neighborhoods, community and housing advocates to inform the work of the committee.
  5. Identify the steps required to attract equitable development investments in Seattle Opportunity Zones.

“The Affordable Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council encompasses members with vast knowledge and years of expertise in the housing development and investment industries,” the mayor’s office says. “Membership will continue to grow as those who have been asked to serve are added.”

Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council

  • Co-Chair Larry Brown, Washington State Labor Council
  • Co-Chair Ada Healey, Vulcan
  • Co-Chair Gary Locke, Former Governor of Washington State
  • Co-Chair Ezra Teshome, Community Leader
  • Maria Barrientos, barrientos Ryan
  • Lisa Bogardus, Seattle Building Trades
  • Bruce Brooks, Craft3
  • Mark Dean, Citibank
  • Dan Duffus, Blueprint Capital
  • Aaron Fairchild, Green Canopy Homes
  • Joe Ferguson, Lake Union Partners
  • Greg Gorder, Gaard Development
  • Gabe Grant, Spectrum Development Solutions
  • Ed Harley, Foster Pepper
  • John Hempelmann, Cairncross & Hempelmann
  • Julie Howe, Urban Evolution
  • Doris Koo, Yesler Community Collaborative
  • Tony Mestres, Seattle Foundation
  • Nate Miles, Eli Lilly
  • Faith Pettis, Pacifica Law Group
  • Paul Purcell, Beacon Development Group
  • Brad Reisinger, LMC
  • Joe Schocken, Broadmark Capital
  • Kathleen Sims, Master Builders
  • Theresa Whitmarsh, Washington State Investment Board
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14 thoughts on “Seattle forms Middle-Income Housing Advisory Council to address ‘missing middle’ housing needs — UPDATE

  1. The city spent the last four years making the operation of small properties more difficult, expensive, and complicated. Small landlords, the kind most likely to own and operate buildings with fewer than six units, have been encouraged to sell by increasingly burdensome regulations-all brought by the current city council.

    Now we are surprised by the disappearance of these types of properties? Don’t be. They are being sold for development or to larger property owners who operate them “more efficiently “, extracting rents the small operators would not charge. So much for the missing middle.

  2. Working on a problem that should have been addressed 5 years or more ago with numbers that are 2 years out of date is just so typical of Seattle! Durkan’s secret council, that will meet on the same day it is announced and has no list of members makes one ask: “Who exactly did she stock this council with and why?” I can already see that upscale buildings will put money into a fund for affordable housing, essentially paying to house them elsewhere. We will have tenement housing full of middle and low income instead of making every building put in 5-10% of their units for minimum wage workers and make them our neighbors. Seattle is really lame at this!

    • You are exactly right. Even if developers of new (upscale) buildings included a few affordable units (and that’s a big IF…..most will choose to pay the fee), this would be a drop in the bucket relative to the need. And the fee is way lower than it should be….other cities with similar MHA programs charge much more, from what I have read.

      • While you’re probably right, Bob, not all developers are taking that route. LUP is building even more low income units than required and a far larger courtyard in their Midtown project.

        It was supposed to have broken ground months ago but is being held up by a ridiculous review process, delaying hundreds of much needed units coming to market. Development is about more than regulations and the developer, the neighborhood special interest groups have been given far too much power across the board.

  3. How does one build homes for sale to “middle income” people without having higher-income people jump in and buy them– pushing up prices in bidding wars like we saw until last summer?

    • Build more and higher? If upper income people are in fact upbidding middle income units, there’s a ton of profit to be made by developers. Pretty basic supply and demand scenario there.

  4. I’m a big fan of townhouses, especially in cities, but I think we need to define terms here. Is a million dollar townhouse ‘missing middle housing’ just because it’s a townhouse?

    If you build townhouses in Madison Park for 1.4 million a piece, who does that help? If a neighborhood is relatively less expensive, single family homes are broken up into apartments. We see that all over the city. No need to change the structure of the house because it already happens. Similarly, as a neighborhood becomes pricier, these apartments are knit back together into single family homes. Brownstone (and rowhouse) Brooklyn is exhibit A of this if local examples aren’t convincing.

    Also, talk about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped! We just spent the last 10 years demolishing all these buildings and now we wonder where they went?? Stop.

    • Don’t look now but it’s worse than you think. $1.4M would be “cheap” for Madison Pk. One not far from me recently went in 2 days for $1.8M, and my neighborhood isn’t even as nice as Madison Pk.

    • You’ve clearly never tried to convert a single family home to multiple units. In most instances, it’s nowhere near as simple as you are suggesting and does indeed require structural changes.