Mayor announces new actions to expand enrollment in Utility Discount Program

Utility bills will be cut in half for thousands more low-income Seattle families under a new plan to simplify enrollment in the City’s Utility Discount Program (UDP) for those who live in affordable housing or receive nutrition assistance. The average discount for UDP-enrolled customers is more than $800 a year.

Under a new partnership with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC), any individual or family who lives in an affordable apartment with income requirements that also meet UDP income eligibility will be automatically enrolled in the utility discount. Residents will be informed on Sept. 1.

“Housing costs are the largest expense a family faces in our growing city, and utility bills are no small part of that burden,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We have one of the most progressive utility discounts in the country, but the administrative burden has been a barrier for too many. Today, we’re making it simple: if you qualify for subsidized housing or food assistance, we will make it easy to cut your utility bills in half.”

The new partnership is an agreement that the Housing Finance Commission will share the addresses of units that fall into the UDP eligibility range so the occupants can be auto enrolled. Residents’ names or other personal information will not be shared. The income of these renters is already verified annually.

“Rent is only one of the costs of housing—utilities take their toll as well,” said WSHFC Chair Karen Miller. “By sharing this data that we already collect, we can help make housing more affordable for thousands of Seattle residents, and that’s why we’re very excited about this collaboration with the city.”

Up to 5,000 utility customers may benefit from this change. Units that include a federal utility credit would not be eligible.

“We were new to the Seattle area and had very limited income and our apartment manager thoughtfully suggested we apply for the utility discount program,” said Yolanda and Chris, residents in a Bellwether Housing building. “It has been very helpful to us since we were approved last October. We try to be conscientious with our energy usage and indeed went under the City Light estimate of usage. Thank you Seattle and Bellwether for your support in helping us make our transition to becoming Seattleites a little easier.”

To ease the application process for other customers, those already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will no longer be required to provide income verification. Beginning Sept. 1, City staff will now have the ability to verify the customer’s income through SNAP’s Washington Connection database. An estimated 8,500 SNAP recipients in Seattle are eligible to apply for utility discounts through this simplified approach.

The income limit for SNAP is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, which falls within UDP income requirements. The City will conduct random audits of up to 10 percent of enrollees to ensure continued income eligibility.

“All of us at Bellwether are excited to be a part of this partnership. This program will be a great benefit to our residents and will enable everyone who is eligible to auto enroll,” said Doug Daley, executive director of Bellwether Housing. “This will save staff time and – more importantly – will help low-income Seattle families save money each month so they can afford other necessities like food, childcare, clothes and transportation.”

For lower-income customers who qualify, Seattle’s Utility Discount Program offers 50 percent off Public Utilities bills and 60 percent off City Light bills. Nearly 18,000 customers are currently enrolled (an increase of nearly 4,000 since January 2014), but many more are eligible and have not signed up. Murray has set a goal of 28,000 customers enrolled in UDP by the end of 2018.

The income limits for the utility discounts is 70 percent of state median income: $31,000 a year for an individual and $60,000 for a family of four.

“Research has shown decisively that opt-out enrollment for low income programs are far more effective in enrolling eligible households and improving their living standards,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “I have been advocating for the Utility Discount Program to switch to opt-out, and I’m glad we are taking a significant step in that direction.”

“Thanks to the Mayor for making improvements to the Utility Discount Program,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “We are working hand in hand to make the program readily available to all who qualify. Reducing bureaucracy and speeding the application process are very good outcomes.”

“The Utility Discount Program makes Seattle more affordable for low-income households, and the automatic enrollment is a great example of City and State agencies sharing data and working together to improve service delivery,” said Councilmember John Okamoto.

Additional details and information on how to enroll for the Utility Discount Program is available here.

In a related move, Murray will send a draft ordinance to Council so that all the City’s utility assistance programs use the standard of 70 percent of state median income to determine eligibility. Seattle City Light administers another program to help customers pay overdue utility bills, the Emergency Low Income Assistance program. Eligible customers can receive one assistance grant every 12 months. The income limit for the program is 125 percent of the federal poverty level, more restrictive than the City’s other utility assistance programs. After the change, an estimated 200 additional City Light customers who receive shut-off notices each year would be eligible for the grant.

Agreement will bring affordable housing to neighborhoods across Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Mike O’Brien today hailed an unprecedented agreement that will lead to at least 50,000 new homes in Seattle, including 20,000 affordable homes, over the next 10 years. Affordable housing will be included in nearly every residential development across Seattle as the rate of construction of new affordable homes triples.

“As Seattle expands and experiences rapid economic growth, more people are chasing a limited supply of housing. We are facing our worst housing affordability crisis in decades,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “My vision is a city where people who work in Seattle can afford to live here. Housing affordability is just one building block to a more equitable city. It goes hand in hand with our efforts on raising the minimum wage, providing preschool education for low-income children, and increasing access to parks and transit. We all share a responsibility in making Seattle affordable. Together, this plan will take us there.”

“Since 2013, the City Council has called for a robust, citywide, mandatory affordable housing program to help ensure that the people who work in this city can afford to live here. The combination of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and a Commercial Linkage Fee will ensure that as Seattle continues to grow, we are creating housing for all incomes,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

At the heart of the action plan to make Seattle affordable is Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a requirement that developers reserve five to seven percent of units in every new multifamily building to be affordable for residents earning up to 60 percent of King County’s Area Median Income (AMI). Developers could opt to contribute to a fund for off-site construction of the units.

In 2015, 60 percent of AMI is $37,680 for an individual and $53,760 for a family of four. Current market-rate rents in new buildings on Seattle’s Capitol Hill currently average $1,887. In 2015, individuals with incomes of 60 percent of AMI pay $1,008 for income-restricted apartments.

New buildings will have taller height restrictions in existing multifamily residential, mixed-use and commercial zones throughout the city. A substantial portion of the additional development will occur within the existing Urban Centers and Urban Villages, designated two decades ago as the preferred location for denser housing. Only single-family zoning within Urban Villages and along major arterials will be converted to low-rise residential.

A map of the proposal, which was negotiated by Murray, O’Brien, developers and affordable housing advocates, shows where the growth could occur.

The action plan also includes a Commercial Linkage Fee on new commercial development, phased in over three years, to fund additional affordable housing for the lowest-income families. The linkage fee will range from $5 to $14 per square foot, based on the size and location of the commercial development.

When fully implemented, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and the Commercial Linkage Fee will lead to the construction of at least 6,000 new affordable homes over 10 years.

The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee today delivered to the mayor 65 recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by a 28-member committee of affordable housing advocates, community voices, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council last September.

“Many thanks to all the committee members and staff for an extraordinary amount of work over the past 10 months,” said HALA co-chairs David Wertheimer and Faith Li Pettis.  “We were asked by the mayor and council to offer bold, new concepts in our approach to solving the affordable housing crisis. We think this plan fully delivers on that request.  We were able to complete our task because we approached the challenge with a single, shared goal: to make Seattle affordable for all families. None of us got exactly the solution we may have envisioned at the outset, and every one of us had to give a little to reach this landmark agreement. In the end, we are confident that our collaboration will result in thousands of new affordable homes across our city.”

Murray immediately responded to the recommendations with his roadmap to make Seattle affordable, a path to reach his goal of 50,000 new homes, including 20,000 new homes for low- and moderate-income people, over the next decade. Some items in the action plan could be completed this year, while others will require at least two years to implement. In the coming weeks, the mayor will transmit to council a resolution to formalize the elements and framework of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.

Today, about 45,000 households in Seattle spend more than half their incomes on housing. An estimated 2,800 people sleep outside each night in Seattle. Currently, about 700 income-restricted homes are built in Seattle each year.

The increased development capacity across the city will ensure increase supply of housing to respond to growing demand, as Seattle is forecast to add 120,000 residents over the next 20 years.

Single-family zones currently represent 65 percent of all land in Seattle. After the proposed zoning changes, single-family zones will still cover 61 percent of Seattle. HALA proposes code changes that will make it easier to build accessory dwelling units and backyard cottages (only one percent of homeowners have done so), as well as allow duplexes and triplexes, while preserving the character of single-family neighborhoods.

Residential development continues to be excluded from industrial areas under the proposal.

The City is currently engaged in a community process to update its Comprehensive Plan, called Seattle 2035. Over the past two decades, the Comprehensive Plan has been successful in locating 75 percent of Seattle’s new housing in Urban Centers and Urban Villages. The update, to be completed in 2016, contemplates expansion of Urban Villages and denser housing around transit hubs and light rail stations. HALA’s recommendations will be implemented in conjunction with the updated Comprehensive Plan.

Doubling of Housing Levy in 2016

To meet the needs of the Seattle’s lowest-income residents, those earning less than 30 percent of AMI, HALA also proposes to double the existing $145 million Seattle Housing Levy scheduled to expire in 2016. Over the past 30 years, the levy has funded $400 million to build and preserve nearly 12,000 units of affordable housing.

In 2015, 30 percent of AMI is $18,850 for an individual or $26,900 for a family of four.

This year, the City will award a record $42 million from the Housing Levy and the existing Incentive Zoning program for the development and preservation of low-income housing. The Seattle Office of Housing will issue project guidelines and invite partner applications later this week.

The HALA report also urges the Washington State Legislature to allow Seattle to adopt a 0.25 percent real estate excise tax dedicated to affordable housing development, as well as an increase in the State Housing Trust Fund.

To support moderate-income families, HALA recommends expanding the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption Program (MFTE) that is set to expire at the end of the year. Under MFTE, developers receive a tax exemption when they dedicate 20 percent of units in new buildings for moderate-income people, typically between 65 percent and 85 percent of AMI. HALA proposes to expand the program to all areas where multifamily housing can be built and incorporate a new incentive for three-bedroom units to extend program benefits to larger moderate-income families.

In 2015, 80 percent AMI is $46,100 for an individual and $65,800 for a family of four.

HALA recommends a range of tenant protections to ensure better access to housing, prevent housing discrimination and minimize displacement as rental and ownership costs increase across the city:

  • Prevent displacement as rents increase across the city through a Preservation Property Tax Exemption and other mechanisms.
  • Remove barriers to housing for renters with a criminal history that disproportionately impact people of color.
  • Strengthen the Tenant Relocation Assistance paid to low-income renters who are displaced by new development.
  • Develop new homeownership tools for Muslim buyers who cannot use conventional mortgage products due to their religious convictions.
  • Establish new protections to prevent discrimination against renters due to their source of income.

HALA also recommends that the City continue to review parking policies that contribute to the growth of housing costs or inhibit development in single- and multifamily residential zones.

Murray announces new strategy for city planning

To better manage planning and investments in rapidly growing Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray today signed an executive order to create a new Office of Planning and Community Development to integrate strategic planning functions from across city departments into one single entity.

“We have moved beyond the debate about whether we should allow growth – growth is already here,” said Murray. “When we develop new housing in a neighborhood, we must ensure we also have adequate open space, transportation and access to jobs, social services and other amenities. How we grow and how we invest will go hand in hand.”

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, on pace to permit 9000 new housing units this year – 30 percent more than 2014. Seattle will be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.

The new office elevates the planning functions of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to manage Seattle’s construction boom and job growth, while also coordinating public investments in transportation, parks and housing. This office will be composed of planners with expertise in a range of subjects across city departments.

The office will also act as a single point of contact for Seattle residents who have concerns or comments about City planning and investments. The Department of Neighborhoods, led by new director Kathy Nyland, will help facilitate a new approach to community engagement.

“We need an entry-point for community concerns about how we preserve the Seattle that drew us all here in the first place,” said Murray. “And most importantly, this office will help us develop a shared vision for what kind of city we want Seattle to become.”

The mayor also announced that longtime director of DPD, Diane Sugimura, intends to retire later this year after more than three decades of service to the City of Seattle.

“On behalf of the people of the Seattle, I want to extend my thanks to Diane,” said Murray. “I look forward to Diane’s continued contribution to this important conversation on managing growth, as well as her insights in what we are looking for in the next generation of leaders in Seattle planning.”

Over the last two decades, the City has successfully channeled new housing into urban villages to create planned density. Nearly 75 percent of growth has been focused into Seattle’s Urban Centers and Urban Villages.

“My 37 years with the City have been an amazing roller coaster of activity and change,” said Sugimura. “I’ve been fortunate to have been part of these exciting and challenging times. I look forward to helping create the new Office of Planning and Community Development, which will provide an integrated and equitable approach to city growth.”

As integrated planning is elevated to the new Office of Planning and Community Development, the existing regulatory functions of the Department of Planning and Development – permits, code enforcement and inspections – will be housed in a separate agency to be named later. Nathan Torgelson, currently the deputy director at DPD, will lead that agency. Torgelson has 25 years’ experience in planning and economic development in various roles in the cities of Seattle and Kent.

The mayor’s September budget submittal to the City Council will include a detailed plan for both agencies. City departments participating in this planning process include: Department of Planning and Development, Transportation, Parks, Public Utilities, City Light, Housing and Economic Development.

Mayor Murray Encourages Enrollment in Ready to Work

During the final week to enroll in Ready to Work, Mayor Ed Murray encouraged eligible immigrants and refugees to take the opportunity to improve their English skills that will help them access quality jobs.

“One out of every five people in Seattle is foreign-born. Our economy is stronger when immigrants have the opportunity to overcome language and skills barriers,” said Murray. “Ready to Work will help open the door to a job with a livable wage and good working conditions.”

The Ready to Work model will offer tailored learning for each participant to access English as a Second Language, computer literacy and critical job skills training. The courses will be enhanced by hands-on skill training in computers and other workplace basics. Classes will meet four times a week in the summer and five times a week during the fall and spring. There is no cost to program participants.

“What excites me is the innovate approach to adult learning and employment,” says Jill Wakefield, Chancellor for Seattle Colleges. “Social and economic mobility is a big challenge for our community, especially for our immigrant population. Working with our partners to teach ELL with a specific outcome is special. We are doing more than helping them obtain jobs. We are building a foundation for further education, training, and career development—items I view as a key to individual growth and prosperity.”

Summer classes will be offered at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) with an additional Southeast Seattle location to be offered in the fall. Seattle residents over 18 years of age who are looking for a job, or a better job, and have limited English proficiency are encouraged to apply by calling ACRS at (206) 695-7517 as soon as possible. The last day to apply for the program is June 22nd. The first class begins on June 29th.

“We are pleased to support the Mayor’s Ready to Work Initiative,” says Marléna Sessions, CEO of the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County. “Ready to Work is a fantastic model for connecting immigrants and refugees with limited English proficiency to the skills and career navigation necessary to finding good jobs and meeting the workforce needs of local businesses.”

The partners engaged in Ready to Work include: the Seattle Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs; Seattle Human Services Department and Seattle Office of Economic Development; Seattle Housing Authority; Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services; Seattle Jobs Initiative; Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County; Port Jobs; Seattle Colleges; Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges; Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS); Seattle Goodwill; Neighborhood House; and One America.

Brian Surratt to head Office of Economic Development

Today Mayor Ed Murray named Brian Surratt director of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED). Surratt will replace Steve Johnson, who is stepping down after leading the department for the past six years.

“Brian has demonstrated strong leadership in support of Seattle’s workers and businesses,” said Murray. “He is a trusted advisor, and his contributions are helping businesses succeed and grow quality jobs. Seattle is a diverse, innovative, and globally connected community of businesses. We look forward to supporting an even more competitive and resilient economy that grows middle-class jobs.”

During the first 18 months of the Murray Administration, Surratt has served in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation as senior policy advisor on economic development issues. He helped guide the work of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee that developed the path to a $15 minimum wage. He also worked with regional partners to recruit and retain businesses in the city, including Juno Therapeutics. This year, Surratt was honored with a fellowship from the German Marshall Fund.

“I am honored by this opportunity to serve the Mayor and the city as director of the Office of Economic Development,” says Surratt. “Seattle is a special place that actively cultivates and attracts creative ideas and people that impact the world. Our entrepreneurs are growing the economy without sacrificing our values of shared prosperity. We want to foster an open and supportive environment for creating new jobs in robust business ventures.”

Before joining the Mayor’s Office, Surratt worked at OED for nearly a decade, including three years as deputy director. Previously, he helped launch a Portland software company, served as public affairs manager for First & Goal, Inc. and the Seattle Seahawks, along with stints at the South Downtown Foundation and with former State Representative and current State Treasurer Jim McIntire.

“The Chamber applauds Mayor Murray’s nomination of Brian Surratt as the next director of OED,” said Maud Daudon, CEO, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Brian is one of Seattle’s brightest emerging minds on economic development and understands the many challenges and opportunities facing Seattle’s business community.”

“I got to know Brian Surratt over the past year and a half during the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee work,” said David Rolf, President, SEIU 775.  “Brian played a remarkable role in working with labor, community and business leaders to help drive a challenging process which ultimately led to Seattle’s historic adoption of a path to a $15 minimum wage.”

“I have known Brian for 15 years and he has demonstrated his support for Seattle’s manufacturing and maritime communities. I look forward to working with the Mayor and Brian in the years ahead,” said Dave Gering, Executive Director, Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle.

“I’ve worked with Brian for eight years and in that time I’ve found him to be a balanced and effective public servant,” said David Freiboth, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Martin Luther King County Labor Council. “He is a true innovator when it comes to developing solutions to complex problems. The prospect of working with someone with Brian’s grasp of the economic complexities of Seattle is exciting.”

“Throughout his role in Mayor Murray’s office, Brian has consistently supported the success of Seattle restaurants,” said Angela Stowell, President, Seattle Restaurant Alliance and co-owner of Ethan Stowell Restaurants.  “We hope to continue partnering with him and the Mayor to develop programs and initiatives that support, celebrate and grow Seattle’s restaurant and hospitality community.”

“Brian Surratt’s diverse range of experiences as a civic diplomat, policy wonk, corporate manager and tech entrepreneur make him an impressive choice to lead economic development for Seattle,” said Julie Pham, Vice President, Washington Technology Industry Association. “These roles, combined with his work on his mother’s restaurants and family’s cattle ranch, give Brian a unique perspective on developing and growing businesses of all sizes. WTIA looks forward to continuing our partnership with the Office of Economic Development now under Brian’s leadership to help generate new jobs across the entire region.”

Surratt joins OED on June 15 and will earn an annual salary of $132,000.

Steve Johnson started his career with the City during Mayor Norm Rice’s administration, when he helped consolidate City ownership of the Cedar River Watershed. At OED, he developed a number of innovative community and economic development programs, including the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund and partnerships with post-secondary education institutions and philanthropy to reimagine how to deliver education and training for low-income working adults.

“Steve has shown exemplary commitment to the people and City of Seattle,” said Murray. “I thank Steve for over two decades of public service, highlighted by the remaking of the Office of Economic Development. I appreciate his focus on direct service to individual businesses, strategic investments in the revitalization of our neighborhood business districts, and career advancement for working people. I wish him the best in his next chapter.”

“I’m both appreciative of the opportunity to serve in Mayor Murray’s administration and am looking forward to the next chapter in my life,” said Johnson. “The City must play an active role in economic development and I am thrilled at Brian’s appointment. He played an instrumental role in building this office and has the skills to help the Mayor achieve his vision. As for me, I intend to continue my work for the people of Seattle.”

Johnson will be stepping down to spend more time with family before pursuing other professional opportunities.

Mayor Appoints Director of New Office of Labor Standards

Mayor Ed Murray today named Dylan Orr as director of the new Office of Labor Standards (OLS), which oversees implementation of the city’s historic minimum wage law.

Orr served for over five years at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), including two years as chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), where he served as principal strategic advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Labor, developed labor policies and oversaw a staff of more than 50. Prior to that, Orr served as special assistant to ODEP for three years.  During his time at DOL, Orr worked closely with DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice, among others, and played an instrumental role in the development and implementation of historic labor policies and practices.

“Dylan has the right background and leadership experience to ensure the City meets its commitment to protecting workers and ensuring businesses comply with labor standards,” Murray said. “I’m confident he’ll be a strong and capable leader as we take the next steps forward in implementing the city’s minimum wage law.”

Orr is a Seattle native and holds a law degree from the University of Washington. He was the first openly transgender person appointed by the Obama administration, and the first ever to be appointed to any U.S. Presidential Administration. Orr will earn $118,000 annually.

“I look forward to serving the communities, workers and businesses of the City of Seattle,” Orr said. “I believe that with the implementation and enforcement of the City’s new ordinances, we can advance the economic mobility of our citizens, promote a healthy, productive and diverse workforce, while also boosting Seattle’s economy.”

Mayor Murray proposed the ordinance that established OLS to enforce the city’s labor laws and protect workers and educate employers about their responsibilities. OLS, housed within the Office of Civil Rights, in addition to implementing the Mayor’s minimum wage ordinance, is tasked with investigating wage-theft complaints and pursing action against employers under the City’s wage theft ordinance, the City’s paid sick and safe time ordinance, as well as the City’s job assistance ordinance.

“Dylan is an energetic and enthusiastic public servant committed to ensuring opportunity for all Americans and creating a world where each person’s contribution is valued,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said. “He believes in outreach and building coalitions, and recognizes that we all succeed only when we all succeed. Dylan will be instrumental in building brighter futures for the working families of Seattle.”

Fresh Bucks program receives boost from federal government

Fresh Bucks LogoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that Washington State will receive nearly $6 million over four years to help increase the amount of fruits and vegetables purchased by people with SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps).

In Seattle, the grant will expand the Fresh Bucks program, created in 2012 by the Office of Sustainability & Environment in partnership with the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance. The grant will enable Seattle to engage more low income shoppers and will open the door to more farmers markets and supermarket participation.

Washington State received the largest grant awarded among all 31 projects across the country.

“The Fresh Bucks program is a great way to boost the purchasing power of low income families while also contributing significantly to local businesses,” said Mayor Murray. “Growing this program is a win-win for Seattle residents and our local economy.”

The Fresh Bucks program matches SNAP purchases at farmers markets dollar for dollar, up to $10 per visit. Since Fresh Bucks began, low income shoppers have benefitted from over $220,000 in extra buying power, and 9 out of 10 Fresh Bucks shoppers surveyed report they eat more fruits and vegetables.

“We were proud to partner with JP Morgan Chase to provide seed funds for this program,” said Michael Brown, Vice President of Community Programs at The Seattle Foundation. “We’ve seen its great growth and positive impact for low income people, and we’re pleased USDA wants to invest in our local community to support Fresh Bucks over the next four years.”

“Farmers at our markets love Fresh Bucks because it offers one more way for their food to reach the tables of everyone, regardless of income, who wants to eat healthy food – at the same time putting more money into our farm economy,” said Chris Curtis, executive director of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance.

Mayor Murray announces goal of 20,000 affordable housing units

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 Li 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.

Murray statement on International Franchise Association injunction order decision

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray released the following statement today after U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denied a preliminary injunction request from the International Franchise Association that would have temporarily reclassified franchises as a small business under Seattle’s new minimum wage rules:

“This is a great day for Seattle’s fast food franchise workers. This ruling ensures that on April 1st, the minimum wage will go up for everyone in our city.

We must remember that the ongoing movement for wage equality in our nation was led by fast food workers from large franchise restaurants. Their actions sparked a national conversation about growing wage gaps. Our actions in Seattle have set the bar high for developing a process to raise wages in a way that works for workers and business. Rather than investing in lawyers to prevent workers from earning higher wages, it is time for these large businesses to begin investing in a higher minimum wage for their employees.”

Murray applauds Council approval of affordable housing tax exemption change

Mayor Ed Murray issued the following statement upon the passage of an extension of the Multifamily Tax Exemption for developers of small apartments proposed by the Mayor’s Office:

“The council’s approval of changes to the Multifamily Tax Exemption program represents a smart improvement to a tool that helps private developers include below-market rate apartments in their projects. I’m pleased that after weeks of hard work by my office, the Office of Housing and the Council, today’s action will encourage the production of more affordable units in Seattle.”