Murray proposes to expand levy to support affordable housing

 

smiling

Continuing a 35-year history of public investment in affordable housing, today Mayor Ed Murray announced his proposal to replace and expand the expiring Seattle Housing Levy with a new 7-year ballot measure that would invest $290 million to preserve and produce affordable housing. The Mayor is seeking public input on the initial proposal and will transmit a recommendation to City Council in early March.

“Expanding the Housing Levy is the most important thing we will do this year to support affordability in Seattle,” said Mayor Murray. “We know what works – build more affordable homes for low-income families, preserve the affordable housing we have, and keep people from falling into homelessness – and we must renew our commitment and expand the levy so we can do even more.”

Responding to a broad range of affordability needs in Seattle, Mayor Murray’s initial 2016 Housing Levy proposal will produce affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, low-wage workers, and people experiencing homelessness. The Levy also provides funding for homelessness prevention and homeownership assistance. The program areas include:

  • Rental Production and Preservation ($201 million capital funding; $39 million operating funding): The Levy proposal will produce and preserve 2,150 apartments affordable for at least 50 years, and reinvest in 350 existing affordable apartments. The proposal also provides operating funds to supplement tenant-paid rent in 475 apartments serving extremely low-income residents.
  • Homelessness Prevention ($11.5 million): The Levy proposal will provide short-term rent assistance and stability services for 4,500 families that are at imminent risk of eviction and homelessness.
  • Homeownership ($12.5 million): The Levy proposal will help 200 current low-income homeowners stay in their homes, and help 180 first-time homebuyers with limited income find a stable and affordable home for their family.

Mayor Murray is committing 60 percent of Rental Production and Preservation funds ($144 million) to serve those who are currently experiencing homelessness and those who earn no more than 30 percent of area median income ($24,250 for a family of three). The remainder of the Rental Production and Preservation funds will be dedicated to serving lower-wage workers who earn less than 60 percent of area median income ($48,420 for a family of three).

The expanded 2016 Housing Levy will increase property taxes by $61 a year on a Seattle home with an assessed value of $480,000.

“Since the early 1980s, Seattle has led the country in making direct investments in public-private partnerships for affordable housing,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Council’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee. “The Housing Levy allows us to extend the value of City funding of construction and preservation projects by leveraging other sources of money, including state and federal funds. The Council will thoroughly review the Mayor’s proposal.”

“The Housing Levy is our most important resource for meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable people in our community, including seniors and others on fixed incomes, and families and individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Mayor Murray. “Our levy will leverage other county, state and federal investments to support 1,200 new homes for people for Seattle’s lowest-income families.”

In 1981, Seattle voters were the first in the nation to approve a property tax ballot measure to support affordable housing with the passage of the Senior Housing Bond. In 1986, 1995, 2002 and 2009, voters have approved the Seattle Housing Levy, each time renewing and expanding the commitment to build and preserve affordable housing.

Since its inception, the Housing Levy has created over 12,500 affordable apartments throughout the city, helped 800 families purchase their first home, and provided emergency rent assistance to 6,500 families. Each of the four Housing Levies, and one bond measure, have met and exceeded their goals.

“For 35 years, people in Seattle have invested in affordable housing to preserve the diversity and affordability of our city,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “We have learned what works, how to leverage our resources to have the greatest impact, and how to remain adaptable to the changing needs of our city. In partnership with strong community organizations, we will continue to build on this legacy of success.”

“Expanding affordable housing stock is critical for the escalating number of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle,” said Executive Director of Compass Housing Alliance Janet Pope. “As providers of homeless services, we can have great success in helping our clients address their personal barriers to housing, only to find we have absolutely no place for them to go. This levy must pass. It is a cost-effective smart solution that ensures we remain a place of opportunity for all–a city that values the safety and stability of those who are most vulnerable among us.”

“I worked low-income jobs in Seattle for more than 30 years and I had very few options if I was going to stay in Seattle in my retirement,” said Al Korpela, who lives in an affordable building for seniors on Capitol Hill. “The Seattle Housing Levy supported the purchase and preservation of my building, saving me and other seniors from displacement. Because of the levy, I can stay in my neighborhood, access the supports I need to lead a rich life, and enjoy the culture of the city throughout my retirement.”

With the release of this initial Housing Levy proposal, the Mayor will be seeking input from the community before he submits his proposed ballot measure to the City Council in March. Throughout February, the City will hold community conversations to provide information about the Levy, explain the Mayor’s proposal, and offer an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on their priorities for affordable housing investments. Comments can also be submitted online at www.seattle.gov/housing/levy. The conversations include:

  • West Seattle: Feb 3, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon St) with Southwest District Council
  • East Seattle: Feb 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm at 12th Ave Arts (1620 12th Ave), with Capitol Hill Community Council and Capitol Hill Housing
  • North Seattle: Feb 20, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Lamb of God Church, 12509 27th Ave NE with Lake City Neighborhood Association
  • Central Seattle: February 24, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at IDEA Space (409 Maynard Ave S) with SCIDpda, Interim CDA, and CIDBIA
  • South Seattle: 25, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave S) with SouthCORE, Southeast District Council, and Greater Duwamish District Council

Murray seeks fair access to housing for those with criminal records

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray formed a Fair Chance Housing committee to reduce barriers to housing for people with criminal records. The committee will work to develop proposals that address rental housing discrimination, provide wider access to rental assistance and increase enforcement of Seattle fair housing ordinances.

“Creating an affordable Seattle means we must have equitable access to housing for everyone. Too many of our residents face life-long barriers to housing due to their criminal histories long after they have served their sentences and paid their debt to society,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Lack of fair access to housing can lead to homelessness and deeper dependence on public services. We must ensure everyone in our community has a fair chance to find a stable home.”

The formation of the committee was a recommendation of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) issued in July 2015. The HALA committee pointed to several discriminatory practices, including:

  • Advertisements for rental housing that make people with criminal records ineligible to apply.
  • Screening criteria that include an absolute exclusion of anyone with a criminal record or a broad category of criminal record, such as a felony.
  • Denials based on records that cannot be reported under state law, such as crimes greater than seven years since disposition or release, or juvenile records if the applicant is twenty-one years of age or older.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that as many as one-third of adults in the United States have past criminal files. In 2013, a Seattle Office of Civil Rights investigation found that African American and Latino renters were asked about criminal history more frequently than white applicants.

In 2013, the City of Seattle established restrictions on how employers can use conviction and arrest records during the hiring process and in the course of employment.

“I am proud that the Mayor is moving forward with this measure to increase fairness and racial equity in Seattle’s rental housing market,” said Patricia Lally, Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. “This issue impacts everyone, but especially Black, Latino and Native American families, who face disproportionate barriers to stable housing in Seattle.”

“This is about addressing the aftermath of mass incarceration. We hear every day from clients, community groups and advocates that criminal records are a major barrier to housing,” said Merf Ehman of Columbia Legal Services. “A community coalition has come together to work for fair accessible renting for everyone and is committed to unlocking housing for all and ending homelessness.”

While the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued guidance to local Housing Authorities about the use of arrest records, state and federal law does not prohibit property managers from running advertisements that exclude people with any type of criminal record from applying for housing, no matter how many years ago an incident occurred.

The Fair Chance Housing committee will provide input to the Office for Civil Rights on a legislative proposal addressing these barriers to housing, while acknowledging and responding to business and safety impacts. The Mayor’s Office and City Attorney’s Office will finalize the legislation prior to sending the proposal to the Seattle City Council for approval.

The members of the Fair Chance Housing committee are:

Billie Abers, Capitol Hill Housing

Afamefuna Ayika, BlackOut WA

Marcel Baugh, Seattle Human Rights Commission

Derrick Belgarde, Chief Seattle Club

Rod Brandon, Seattle Housing Authority

Cameron Carl, Seattle Goodwill

Augustine Cita, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle

Merf Ehman, Columbia Legal Services

Eric Ellman, Consumer Data Industry Association

Mahnaz Eshetu, Refugee Women’s Alliance

Liz Etta, Tenants Union

Sean Flynn, Rental Housing Association of Washington

Andrew Kashyap, Racial Disparity Project

Mario Paredes, Consejo Counseling and Referral Service

Joe Puckett, Washington Multifamily Housing Association

Pastor Lawrence Willis, United Black Clergy

Clinton Wilson, FareStart

Kira Zylstra, AllHome

The Fair Chance Housing committee also includes a person who is currently experiencing homelessness due to their conviction record.

Bipartisan bill aims to preserve affordable housing statewide

PTE presserAcross the Puget Sound region, as real estate values and rents rise, cities large and small are struggling to preserve existing lower-cost, market-rate housing. A bipartisan plan to enact a local-option property tax exemption for existing rental homes aims to preserve lower rents and prevent the displacement of long-time tenants, even as landlords seek to make building improvements.

The Preservation Tax Exemption proposal sponsored by Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn) and Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) has earned the support of property owners, tenants, affordable housing advocates and a dozen urban and suburban mayors across the region. The legislation to grant cities the ability to offer the tax exemption will be introduced in Olympia on Monday.

“Housing costs for working families have skyrocketed in our region,” said Sen. Fain, who serves as Majority Floor Leader in the Washington State Senate. “Sometimes the tools policymakers use to maintain affordable housing can reduce supply over time, leading to shortages and higher prices. Giving cities the discretion to create incentives for landlords to upgrade and maintain their properties at prices families can afford is one tool for addressing this growing problem.”

“The Preservation Tax Exemption will be a critical tool for Washington municipalities to curb the effects of housing displacement, poverty and homelessness,” said Sen. Frockt. “This is a measure that will promote economic stability and opportunity in our communities.”

Under the bill, owners of rental properties could apply for a 15-year exemption to local property taxes, and in exchange, reserve 25 percent of the building’s apartments for low-income families earning less than 50 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).

In King County, 50 percent of AMI is $36,000 for two-person household and 60 percent of AMI is $43,000.

Affordable rent in for a one bedroom apartment in King County at 50 percent AMI is $840 and at 60 percent AMI is $1,008. The average market rate for one bedrooms in new buildings in Ballard is $1,656, while a one bedroom in Renton averages $1,275.

And for larger families, affordable rent for a two bedroom apartment in Ballard at 60 percent AMI is $1,210, while the average market rate for a similar apartment in a new building is $2,072.

The bill gives cities the option to enact the tax exemption and each jurisdiction would determine how many homes to enroll.

The City of Seattle estimates that it could preserve 3,000 affordable apartments over 10 years at the cost of $12 a year to the average property taxpayer.

“We will never solve the housing affordability crisis if we only focus on construction of new apartments,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “We must work to preserve existing affordable homes, including affordable market-rate homes. This is a cost-effective solution to prevent the displacement of thousands of families in our city.”

“This will give us another tool to ensure that our residents can live in decent conditions,”
said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “It is proven that a housing first strategy allows for more positive outcomes.”

Under the plan, each jurisdiction would have the option to target additional specific local priorities, including rent stabilization, energy and water conservation, or improvement of substandard housing conditions. In higher-cost areas, cities would have the ability to raise the income restriction from 50 percent to 60 percent of AMI. All apartments enrolled in the exemption would be inspected and required to meet minimum standards for physical condition.

State property taxes collected on enrolled properties would not be reduced under this proposal.

“This legislation represents a great opportunity for a public-private partnership to solve our region’s housing affordability issues,” said Sean Martin of the Rental Housing Association of Washington. “Solutions that provide owners with the tools to gain financial flexibility and invest in affordable housing are the quickest and most effective ways to preserve and enhance existing housing affordability.”

“When I was looking for a new home, it took me months to find a place my family could afford,” said Darryl Johnson, a tenant from Auburn. “Families always worry about rising rents and finding an affordable place is tough all over King County. We need more solutions that help families like mine.”

Murray applauds 2016 increase in Seattle’s minimum wage

Capture

Mayor Ed Murray today issued a statement applauding the latest increase in Seattle’s minimum wage during the phased-in implementation to $15 an hour:

“Tomorrow Seattle workers get another raise. When our $15 minimum wage is fully implemented, more than 100,000 workers across the city will benefit. Higher wages will help make Seattle more affordable for everyone who works in the city. Our phased-in approach, developed by labor and business working together, minimizes disruptions – especially to small businesses. I am proud that the Seattle model has been replicated in other cities across the country.”

Seattle’s minimum wage will continue to increase each year on Jan. 1, with the level of the increase dependent on the size of business and whether or not the worker receives healthcare benefits and/or tips. For more details, see the Office of Labor Standards Minimum Wage website.

Workplace poster (English)

Workplace poster (Spanish)

Murray Announces $45 Million for Affordable Housing

image2

Today Mayor Ed Murray announced the City of Seattle’s $45 million investment in affordable housing development through the Office of Housing’s Rental Housing Program. Once completed, these 809 apartments will be home to low-income families, youth, seniors, and single adults, some of whom would otherwise be homeless.

“Today’s announcement makes a major contribution to building 20,000 affordable homes over 10 years, my goal under our City’s housing affordability agenda,” stated Mayor Ed Murray. “Our 30-year commitment to the Seattle Housing Levy helps keep Seattle affordable. This historic investment ensures that hundreds of people in our community – from working families to those who have experienced homelessness – will have the stability of an affordable home.”

The 2015 award is the largest ever annual investment in affordable housing by the City. Last year, the Office of Housing awarded $22 million. In his 2015 State of the City address, Murray pledged $35 million to support the recommendations of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee.

This year’s extraordinary funding level is due to significant contributions from developers who have benefited from the recent building boom. Developers who participate in Incentive Zoning provide payments to the City’s affordable housing fund, which the Office of Housing uses to leverage other state and federal funding.

The Seattle Housing Levy remains the most consistent and important funding source for affordable housing in Seattle. Starting in 1981, voters have approved one bond and four levies for a total of $388 million dollars. These funds have been instrumental in providing more than 12,000 income- and rent-restricted apartments in Seattle. The Seattle Housing Levy is up for renewal in 2016.

“This year’s funding awards show how the City makes a sound investment of public funding, whether it comes from the voters or through development,” said Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “And by collaborating with other funders we are able to leverage $4.00 of state and federal funding for every dollar of Seattle’s public investment.”

The HALA committee recommended expanding programs, like the Seattle Housing Levy, that have a history of success and creating new resources and programs to increase affordable housing in our city.  The City Council has already adopted the Mandatory Housing Affordability program framework that will require all new commercial and multi-family residential development to support affordable housing through building affordable apartments or paying into an affordable housing fund. Mayor Murray has also proposed expanding the Seattle Housing Levy when it is up for renewal in 2016.

“It was clear to the HALA committee from the start that the Seattle Housing Levy is a great tool for affordable housing,” stated David Wertheimer, co-chair of the HALA committee. “Today we see how combining Levy dollars with those that come from the private development happening in our community can have huge dividends.”

The 2015 Office of Housing Rental Housing Program funding awards include:

Project Name

Applicant

Population to be Served Homes Incomes Served Location City Funds
Building 9

Mercy Housing Northwest

Low Income Families and Individuals 148 30%, 50%, 60% AMI Sandpoint $11,988,699
1511 Dexter Apartments

Bellwether Housing

Low Income Families and Individuals 71 50%, 60% AMI Westlake $7,274,656
Estelle Apartments

DESC

Chronically Homeless Individuals 91 30% AMI Mt. Baker $4,286,072
Chinatown/I.D. Workforce Housing

Inland Group

Lower Income Families and Individuals 247 60% AMI International District $9,950,000
Rainier Court Phase IV

Southeast Effective Development

Lower Income Seniors and Families 93 50%, 60% AMI Mt. Baker $4,048,000
New Ground Sand Point

Friends of Youth

Homeless Youth & Young Adults 7 30% AMI Sandpoint $247,653
Sandpoint YouthCare

YouthCare

Homeless Youth & Young Adults 19 30% AMI Sandpoint $468,229
University District Apartments
Bellwether Housing
Low Income & Homeless Individuals and Families 133 30%, 40%, 60% AMI University District $6,610,000

“We are so excited to be at this important milestone for these projects,” said Susan Boyd, director of Bellwether Housing. “This funding from the City of Seattle allows us to move forward on construction of over 200 new affordable apartments in 2016. Our new buildings will serve families and individuals transitioning from homelessness as well as those in lower wage jobs who could not otherwise afford to live in Seattle.”

Seattle announces new funding for affordable housing near transit

Mayor Ed Murray submitted legislation to the City Council this week to invest an additional $1 million in land acquisition near transit hubs for affordable housing in Seattle. The Regional Equitable Development Initiative (REDI) fund creates a regional pool of resources that will be used to secure land near existing or planned high-capacity transit.

“Supporting an equitable and affordable Seattle means creating housing options near transit that working families can afford,” said Murray. “We must make the smart investment now to acquire land near transit centers, so we can locate convenient, affordable housing as our community grows.”

Implementing the REDI fund is one of the many recommendations made by the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda committee last summer, and exemplifies Seattle’s commitment to strong regional partnerships in housing affordability issues.

“Aside from housing, transportation is a family’s greatest expense,” stated Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who promoted the allocation of City dollars for the REDI fund in the 2015 budget cycle. “Investing early on in affordable housing options near transit centers ensures we are developing our city equitably into the future.”

The idea for the REDI fund emerged from a 3-year regional planning effort, Growing Transit Communities, which concluded in 2013. The City Council authorized the $1 million in the 2015 budget and asked the Mayor and the Office of Housing to develop a Regional Compact with King County, the State of Washington, and other regional public and private partners to govern expenditure of the fund. A total of $21 million will be invested in the fund – $5 million from public sources and $16 million from private and other sources.

“Seattle, like many metropolitan areas across the country, recognizes that housing affordability is a regional issue as much as a local one,” stated Steve Walker, director of the Office of Housing. “Both Denver and San Francisco have created similar tools to acquire land for affordable housing, and have shown that this works.”

The City Council PLUS Committee will discuss the REDI fund on Dec. 1, with a vote scheduled for Dec.15.

Murray praises passage of landmark housing legislation

Mayor Ed Murray today congratulated the City Council on passage of the Grand Bargain that will support the construction of thousands of new affordable homes in neighborhoods across Seattle through a mandatory contribution to affordable housing on new commercial construction and multi-family residential developments:

“Affordable housing advocates and the development community came together this year to craft an unprecedented agreement to build new affordable homes across Seattle. The Council has acted swiftly and decisively to adopt this recommendation to make Seattle a more livable city. A special thanks to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, whose leadership was instrumental in reaching this milestone.

“With this vote today, Seattle neighborhoods will become more sustainable, socially inclusive and economically diverse. For the first time, private developers will build or contribute to affordable housing with every new apartment building or office building. More families and individuals will be able to afford to live in walkable communities close to transit or near where they work. We are a big step closer to our goal that everyone who works in Seattle can afford to live in Seattle.”

Sugimura named interim director of Office of Planning and Community Development

Today Mayor Ed Murray named Diane Sugimura, the current director of the Department of Planning and Development, interim director of the new Office of Planning and Community Development.

In his 2016 budget, the mayor is proposing to coordinate strategic planning functions across city departments in one single entity, OPCD, to better manage planning and investments in a rapidly growing Seattle.

“We must seize this opportunity to carefully plan the growth of Seattle to include the amenities that support our livable and vibrant community,” said Murray. “After nearly four decades of service to the people of Seattle, I have convinced Diane to stay a few more months so that we have steady leadership as we launch this new planning agency. I hope to nominate a new director in the first few months of 2016.”

OPCD will elevate the City’s planning functions to manage Seattle’s construction boom and job growth, while also coordinating public investments in transportation, parks and housing. This new office will coordinate the work of planners in a range of subjects across city departments.

“Over the past several months, I have worked closely with the mayor to create this new office and help fulfill the vision for responding to growth in an equitable and integrated way,” said Sugimura. “We will be better coordinated in how we grow and how we invest. I’m looking forward to helping get this office off the ground until the new director arrives.”

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.

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, adding 70,000 residents and 63,000 jobs in the past five years. The city is expected to be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.

FAQ for New Office of Planning and Community Development

2013_Seattle_Skyline

The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is a new office that will support the Mayor’s vision of building thriving communities with a mix of amenities, open space, transportation, utilities, affordable housing, and economic opportunity. This new office will work across our City departments to assess community needs, prioritize resources, develop a vision for how our neighborhoods grow and develop, and ensure that we are coordinating and implementing our plans with a cohesive vision. We are excited about the work ahead. This FAQ provides further details about how the new office will improve planning coordination across the City.

FAQ for New Office of Planning and Community Development

  1. Why are we creating a new executive Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD)?

The City of Seattle is growing rapidly. By 2035, Seattle is expected to have 120,000 new residents and 115,000 new jobs. While these factors support our robust economy, some residents are concerned with how growth has affected their neighborhood character; others are concerned about displacement or traffic congestion. As a result, the Mayor recognizes that to build thriving communities with a mix of affordable housing, open space, transportation, utilities, and economic opportunity, the City must have one office that will help truly integrate planning and community development.

While the current Department of Planning and Development (DPD)—to be renamed the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI)—manages site-specific land-use planning and permits new development, current ownership of the City’s vision for comprehensive planning and implementation at the neighborhood and city level often is unclear and distributed across multiple departments. By restructuring how the City plans and then implements those plans, the intent is that City departments will be more strategically aligned to deploy resources to meet current and future needs. Our goal is to accommodate growth while maintaining a high quality of life for all and improving equity in the City.

  1. What are the key divisions of OPCD and what are examples of their work?

OPCD will be comprised of three divisions and two commissions:

  • Director’s Office
  • Research and Analysis Division
  • Planning and Implementation Division
  • Seattle Planning Commission
  • Seattle Design Commission

The Director’s Office will manage OPCD and provide leadership and support in the areas of finance, community engagement, administrative assistance, and communications with Councilmembers, staff, and constituents. The Director will be a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet.

The Research and Analysis Division will inform long-range planning activities. This division will assess best practices research, and assemble and present data on growth, equity and other issues to help guide decision-making and support the planning and investment priorities. This Division will directly inform the work of the Planning and Implementation division. Examples of their work may include:

  • Working closely with capital department liaisons to align long-range capital planning investments;
  • Coordinating with the City’s revenue team, economists, the fiscal and capital manager within CBO, Citywide GIS, and staff liaisons from capital departments to support work on equitable growth analysis and community investment strategies;
  • Establishing criteria for neighborhood priorities;
  • Developing GIS resources to monitor and track citywide capital investments; and
  • Monitoring and updating the Comprehensive Plan and tracking citywide growth and development.

The Planning and Implementation Division will develop, update and implement plans and citywide initiatives, as informed by the Research and Analysis Division. Given its focus on planning and implementation, this division will develop and implement plans, and align City investments to enhance community benefits. Examples of their work may include:

  • Leading cross-departmental efforts supported by staff liaisons from other City departments to develop community plans and citywide initiatives for implementation;
  • Coordinating with the Department of Neighborhoods on outreach and engagement;
  • Implementing key planning recommendations including the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA); and
  • Managing a capital subcabinet to align capital investments.

The Seattle Planning Commission will remain an independent body that continues to advise the Mayor, City Council and City departments on broad planning goals, policies and plans for the physical development of the City.

The Seattle Design Commission will remain an independent body that promotes civic design excellence in capital improvement projects that are located on City land, in the City right-of-way, or constructed with City funds, and will continue to advise the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvements and other projects and policies that shape Seattle’s public realm.

  1. What are the biggest challenges that this new office will address for the City? How will this new office accomplish this task?

OPCD will support the Mayor’s vision of building thriving communities with a mix of amenities, open space, transportation, utilities, affordable housing, and economic opportunity. To help achieve the Mayor’s vision, there are three core challenges that this new department must address:

  1. Current ownership of the City’s vision for comprehensive planning and implementation at the neighborhood, regional, and city levels is distributed across multiple departments;
  2. Departments have identified that the lack of comprehensive information about where projects are being planned often results in project plans, implementation, and capital investments of departments being misaligned; and
  3. Departments prioritize budgets and resources differently, which can result in competing priorities and less focused use of resources.

The new department will address these core challenges by:

  • Assessing neighborhood needs, and identifying opportunity areas and priorities for neighborhood development and implementation;
  • Ensuring that department priorities are aligned with the Mayor’s priorities and the goals of the comprehensive plan;
  • Ensuring that Council priorities are also in alignment and reflected in policies, regulations and budget resources; and
  • Establishing, vetting and executing implementation plans.
  1. How is this new office different? How will it operate with other departments to ensure that Seattle will plan holistically and meet future needs?

We recognize that in the past, the City of Seattle has reorganized various departments and established new offices to coordinate and strengthen City planning services. While some past efforts helped, they were not sufficient. The current era of unprecedented growth and development only underscores the need for a truly coordinated planning office that will strategically address current and future challenges.

OPCD is a priority for the Mayor; and the team working in OPCD will have the significant task of planning comprehensively to support both current and future residents. The new office must work closely with all City departments to establish strong communication, align work plan priorities, leverage resources, and develop tangible implementation plans that address neighborhood needs. OPCD will work with other City departments to accomplish tasks that include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Assessing neighborhood assets and needs, the impacts of growth, and strategies to support more equitable development;
  • Identifying opportunities and establishing priorities for community development;
  • Focusing on implementation by identifying capital investments, strategic partnerships, assets, and equity issues that are consistent with City objectives;
  • Staffing a Capital Subcabinet to ensure that short- and long-range department plans drive capital investments and leverage city resources effectively to address community needs;
  • Collaborating with the Mayor, City Budget Office (CBO), and Council to ensure that City goals are aligned with proposed priorities and resources; and
  • Ensuring significant planning activities and development projects are reviewed to ensure alignment with community development priorities.

In addition, some examples of interdepartmental coordination work led by OPCD may include:

  • Aggregating data that defines where capital investments are planned by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), Seattle City Light (SCL), Seattle Parks and Recreation, and other capital departments to align and leverage strategic priorities;
  • Aligning area plans, Urban Design Frameworks, transportation plans, and community development strategies; and
  • Coordinating with SPU and SCL to plan for adequate infrastructure in water, sewer, drainage and power when new development occurs to ensure sufficient capacity.
  1. What parts of DPD (to be renamed to SDCI) will change? How will different components of DPD work together?

The planning functions that oversee comprehensive planning, area planning, and community development, as well as the Seattle Planning and Design Commissions, will be moved to OPCD and restructured to develop and promote integrated planning and community development. The other core regulatory functions of DPD will remain in DPD, which will be renamed to SDCI.

We also recognize the importance of the close relationship between the divisions currently in DPD. OPCD will continue to work closely with the regulatory component, as it would with all other departments to facilitate and implement comprehensive planning. For example, because the regulatory function manages the permitting process, OPCD will work closely with the regulatory side to help monitor current, future, and potential development to identify and assess capital investment needs in neighborhoods, regulatory changes that may be warranted, etc.

  1. Who are liaisons and what will be their role?

To strengthen interdepartmental coordination, staff from City departments will work with OPCD as subject matter expert “liaisons” to facilitate cross-department coordination. Such staff will remain in their home departments and will work within OPCD to ensure that OPCD has sufficient department expertise and remain coordinated with department priorities. As a result, liaisons may take on the following roles:

  • Work with OPCD planners by providing guidance and recommendations on department priorities, planning efforts, and capital projects to ensure cross-department alignment and project implementation;
  • Serve on a Capital Subcabinet led by OPCD to guide long-range planning and capital investment decisions;
  • Communicate emerging issues and priorities of their home department; and
  • Identify additional subject matter experts within their home departments when necessary.
  1. Who was involved in the creation of OPCD?

As a new office with the primary objective of strengthening coordination across all departments, it was critical to Mayor Murray that multiple departments help to shape and frame the scope and mission of OPCD. In June, Mayor Murray announced an Executive Order directing all City departments to work with the Mayor’s Office, DPD, CBO, and the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) to develop OPCD.

  1. How will this change be implemented? What is the timeline? What will be the impact on the City budget?

The legislation and budget changes to implement OPCD will be sent to City Council with the 2016 Proposed Budget at the end of September. The total proposed budget for OPCD in 2016 is $7.9 million, all supported by the General Fund. This includes $6.6 million that currently supports existing functions within DPD and $1.3 million in new resources. City Council will review and hold hearings on the proposed budget and legislation as part of their budget deliberations in October and November. The final vote on the 2016 Budget legislation package is expected in late November. All adopted changes will be effective January 1, 2016.

Mayor proposes expansion of affordable housing tax exemption program

Today Mayor Ed Murray introduced legislation that renews and expands the existing Multifamily Tax Exemption (MFTE). The proposal encourages family-sized units in new buildings and requires more affordable housing to be built. It also expands the MFTE to more areas of Seattle.

“We must ensure that there are affordable homes for people looking to raise families in walkable, mixed-income neighborhoods near transit and job centers,” said Mayor Murray. “Renewing and expanding the MFTE program will construct more affordable housing for working families. This is a smart program that saves families hundreds of dollars each month and brings us closer to creating 20,000 more affordable units in Seattle over the next decade.”

The proposal would increase the supply of affordable units through two specific changes to the current MFTE program. The first would require all new multifamily buildings to designate 25 percent (up from 20 percent) of their units as affordable. The second change would encourage the construction of family-sized units by allowing developers to instead designate 20 percent of their building affordable if they construct four or more two-bedroom units.

The program has achieved significant savings for renters over the years. A tenant, on average, renting a MFTE unit saves $400 a month for a studio, $500 a month for a one-bedroom, and $600 on a two-bedroom unit. For example, a two-bedroom unit costs $2,133 per month at the market rate, while a MFTE unit of the same size costs $1,539 per month.

The proposal would keep income restrictions measured by Area Median Income (AMI) in place. The restriction for residents applying for the MFTE eligible units is 40 percent AMI for a SEDUs, 65 percent AMI for studios, 75 percent for one-bedrooms, 85 percent AMI for two-bedrooms, and 90 percent AMI for a three-bedroom units. Income and rent limits can be found here.

The recommendation comes from the Mayor and City Council’s 28-member Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) advisory committee. The MFTE’s goal is to create affordable rents for families in buildings that otherwise would be unaffordable and market-rate only.

“By expanding the MFTE program, the City is positioned to partner effectively with developers to create affordable homes for the low and modest-wage workers our community relies on,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Seattle Office of Housing. “It is a critical tool that complements the Office of Housing’s other investments in building affordable homes for our lowest-income residents.”

The MFTE program currently in place is set to expire in 2016. The proposal removes the sunset expiration provision, allowing the MFTE to become a permanent program.

“I work at least 60 hours a week in order to provide a great home for my young daughter,” said Clarissa Jarem, a teacher who rents in the University District. “My building participates in this program, giving me the peace of mind to know that my rent isn’t going to go up. I can raise my daughter knowing that I can budget for rent and keep our home for years to come.”

“The existing MFTE program has been an effective tool for creating high-quality affordable housing in some of Seattle’s most desirable neighborhoods,” said Security Properties President Tim Overland. “We’re encouraged by the Mayor’s support of MFTE as a proven program that successfully helps address our city’s affordable housing challenges.”

Currently, the MFTE is available in specific areas in the city. The proposal would expand the MFTE to all zones where multifamily buildings can be built, creating a tool to develop affordable housing where growth is already occurring.

About 40 percent of eligible projects participate in the MFTE today. Many of the households currently living in the MFTE units today earn under $45,000 per year. Currently there are 1,981 affordable units in market-rate buildings in the program, with 1,918 affordable units coming online in the near future.

In July, the HALA advisory committee delivered to the mayor a series of recommendations after 10 months of work. The consensus-driven proposal was crafted by affordable housing advocates, community stakeholders, developers and housing experts appointed by the mayor and Seattle City Council in September of 2014. The text of today’s legislation can be found here.