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City of Seattle

March 12, 7:50 PM click here to comment > 8

Next steps on affordable housing

In Seattle, we’re working to create great communities with access to jobs, parks, libraries and transit. At the same time demand for housing is growing in Seattle as the city recovers from the recession. Seattle has been ranked the #1 city for tech jobs by Forbes, and was #4 nationwide in overall job creation in 2012, according to the US Department of Labor. Based on current trends, Seattle expects to add 115,000 jobs and 70,000 housing units in the next 20 years. We now need to work even harder to help ensure everyone who works in Seattle has the option to live here as well.
 
A few weeks ago Councilmember Richard Conlin and I directed the Department of Planning and Development and Office of Housing to convene an advisory group to look at the City’s affordable housing incentive programs.   It’s been several years since we last updated the City’s affordable housing incentive programs and, with the economy turning around and the housing market strong, now is a good time to re-examine these programs.
 
The advisory committee will bring together community members, affordable housing providers, developers and other experts. We’ve asked Tom Tierney and Morgan Shook to co-chair the committee.  Tierney is recently retired from his position as Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority and Shook is a member of the Planning Commission and a Senior Associate at BERK Consulting.  Invitations recently went out and confirmed members currently include Chris Persons, Maiko Winkler-Chin, Sarah Lewontin, Al Levine, Martha Barkman, Maria Barrientos, A-P Hurd, Jack McCullough, Rebecca Saldaña, Steve O’Connor, Steve Williamson, Dave Frieboth.
 
Along with staff from the City’s Department of Planning and Development and Office of Housing, the group will provide strategic guidance around the renewal of the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) and recommend changes to the city’s affordable housing zoning incentive programs including an adjustment to the incentive zoning fee-in–lieu formula.
 
The advisory group will begin regular meetings later this month with a kick-off meeting scheduled March 22nd.  They will first conduct a review of the MFTE program and then focus on an analysis of the affordable housing zoning incentive programs.  The review of the Multifamily Tax Exemption Program will take place on a shorter timeframe and consider policy questions related to geographic span, affordability levels, and other choices currently under City Council consideration.  The review of affordable housing zoning incentive programs will take place over the course of the next several months, delivering recommendations on a revised program by the end of the year.  A review of other community benefits provided through the incentive zoning program will follow next year.
 
Convening this advisory group is part of the Seattle Housing Strategy which outlines four initiatives aimed at fostering housing affordability: 1) optimize investments in affordable housing, 2) make publicly owned land available for housing, 3) reduce the cost of developing new housing, and 4) foster an adequate and diverse supply of housing.

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn

Comments

Comment from Fouzia Ali
Time March 15, 2013 at 3:43 pm

It is great idea for increasing affordable housing in Seattle, as Seattle population is growing and it attracts more to come because of the good weather, being home of technology and availability of jobs. On the hand Seattle is one of most diversited cities and its population includes Muslim communities who are currently living expensive rented housing or government subsidized housing who would rather pay a house or get rent to own if there are Sharia compliance mortgage companies where there is no interest but rather profit calculated at the time of initial purchase.

Comment from Patty Zeitlin
Time March 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

By affordable, I hope that means people who are way below the poverty line. I have five single part-time working women friends, who cannot afford even $400.00 a month for rent. Even worse for those with children. Please don’t make rents too high for them.

Comment from Donna
Time March 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Please provide a definition for affordable housing. How much for rent? Income guidelines. Thanks

Comment from Elizabeth
Time March 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Whenever I find an apartment that seems affordable to me, I find out that it is “Affordable Housing” for low income people. The prices are a bit high in my opinion for that. I make what I consider a reasonable wage. What I have seen of “low income” housing (as opposed to market rate housing which I cannot afford) is that the prices are too high for anyone meeting the income requirements. By all means, there should be more low income housing, and it should be priced at a rate that low income people can afford. Don’t know what those of us who are neither low income nor high enough income to live in this market, but there you go.

Comment from Victoria Holic
Time March 16, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Green ADUs could be a great source of much-needed tax revenue for the City of Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington. My online research suggests that the City of Seattle will earn 2.6% of each home owner’s 9.5% sales tax, the state of Washington will earn 6.5%, and the Regional Transit Authority will earn .04%. The City and County will receive permit fees, and the County will receive additional property tax revenue – in perpetuity. ADU construction will also generate income for home builders, subcontractors, appliance retailers and materials suppliers. In turn, these people will buy things and pay taxes – creating the so-called economic “multiplier effect.

Please advise: would the City of Seattle consider partnering with the Seattle Chapter of Habitat for Humanity or another non-profit to create the equivalent of a “tourist kiosk” (and home show) for ADUs? These “tourist kiosks” could help home owners minimize the financial risk inherent in building an ADU.

Frankly, I’m on the fence about the pros and cons of constructing an ADU. I’d be more inclined to take the financial risk if I could:
1. Access a database which shows a breakdown of the costs other ADU owners incurred (and claimed on their federal income taxes), for example, sales taxes, licensing fees, inspection fees, site preparation costs, foundation costs, utility costs, construction costs, appliance costs, lighting costs, and plumbing costs.
2. Tour new ADUs and out of warranty ADUs in the Seattle area. How well did the construction materials hold up? Does the place smell of mold? Is the owner happy with the ADU’s overall construction quality?
3. Speak with green builders who can answer questions like: “If I purchase a modular ADU, is there an easy way to measure off-gassing and the amount of formaldehyde in the air?” “Is there an easy way to assess the unit’s air-tightness and insulation levels, given that insulation is hidden in the walls?”
4. Search King County records to see how assessed property values typically change the year after a similar Accessory Dwelling Unit in their neighborhood is completed.
5. Search King County records to identify “comps” (similar properties which added an Accessory Dwelling Unit, then sold the property a couple years later).
6. Obtain an expert’s review of my proposed edits to the construction company’s contract, including attached planning documents and blueprints.

Long term, I think ADUs make good financial sense. As Americans continue to cope with rising energy costs; global warming, a reduction in our “social safety net;” a growing number of older urban singles; and more debt-saddled college grads in minimum-wage jobs; I would expect the market for green urban Accessory Dwelling Units to grow at a faster rate than the market for a standard 3-bedroom manufactured home built new where land is cheap and commute times long.

Right now, it looks like relatively little of the housing stock in Seattle is designed to support ailing singles and seniors who want to hold some of their savings in real estate: people who can’t afford to retire until sometime in their 70’s. Meanwhile, urban co-housing opportunities are relatively unusual.

As I see it, ADUs can help income-constrained urban singles minimize their energy consumption and lower their living costs. Residents of each unit can share chores and some expenses. For example, they can share grocery shopping responsibilities. If they agree to share the cost of insurance, internet and phone service, they may receive group rates. They can carpool. They can nag each other to go to the gym. They can socialize and share chores like cooking, yard work, home maintenance, pet care and escorting one another home from the doctor following a medical procedure. They can share tools. If there are two property owners, more people can afford to own either a starter home or an “ender home.” If one owner moves but doesn’t want to sell, the remaining owner can rent the empty unit and keep an eye on the renters.

Also, I suspect that ADUs probably make good emotional sense. An ADU can house a senior who needs a bit of help with daily tasks or transportation. An ADU can socialize a single person of any age who spend a little too much time alone or on the Internet. Also, because ADUs can be located anywhere, they don’t ghetto-ize low income people.

Would it be possible to joint the advisory group at this late date?

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