Affordable Housing In Seattle?

REALTORS® engage the City of Seattle to focus on market rate housing supply to allow middle income families to become homeowners.

As inadequate housing supply continues to vex buyers, the City of Seattle is reviewing its affordable housing programs, geared toward preserving and increasing the supply of housing affordable to moderate and low income households in Seattle earning between 60%-100% Area Median Income.

SKCR urges the City to begin the discussion with market rate housing supply. While the notion of increased housing supply is often dismissed as politically treacherous, it’s really the first discussion that needs to take place around housing affordability. Supply and demand impacts the entire spectrum of housing affordability ‒ from a subsidized rental unit, to a mansion on the lake.

Seattle has accomplished a great deal in its effort to create compact urban development that is vibrant and exciting. People want to live in dense urban neighborhoods like South Lake Union, Downtown, First Hill and Capitol Hill. Portions of some traditional single-family neighborhoods are becoming denser with the addition of multifamily projects. This new housing supply has been an important factor in containing housing prices. Still, until we have a housing unit for every 1-1.5 jobs, market pressure will increase housing prices.

There are many subsidy tools that the city is reviewing to create affordability:

  • Incentive Zoning
  • Seattle Housing Levy
  • Tax Abatement and Tax Credit Programs
  • Backyard Cottages
  • Zoning Changes
  • Public-Private Partnerships

What’s tricky is employing such tools in a manner that does not unduly raise prices on market-rate units, risking further restriction of housing options for median income earners.

The stakes are high. When Seattle fails to accommodate demand for housing, prices rise not just in Seattle, but throughout the metropolitan region. Price pressure outside of Seattle is as true for below median income units as it is for market units. REALTORS® are letting the city know we share the city’s concern about housing affordability. A community in which the middle class cannot afford to live is not merely inequitable and undesirable, but unsustainable. We hope to see a city in which the median income household can afford the median priced home, with corresponding housing options throughout the income range.

We encourage members to engage in the issue as community opportunities arise.